By Mark Waghorn via SWNS
Sleep deprived teenagers consume an extra 4.5 pounds of sugar during a school year, a new study found.
Researchers found they gorge on sweets, cakes, chocolate and biscuits and guzzle fizzy drinks to boost energy levels.
Professor Kara Duraccio, of Brigham Young University and a lead author of the study, said: "Shortened sleep increases the risk for teens to eat more carbs and added sugars and drink more sugar-sweetened beverages than when they are getting a healthy amount of sleep."
Over the past 20 years, the amount of shut-eye youngsters get has dropped dramatically.
Only about half regularly get more than seven hours. The recommended amount is eight to ten. The biggest culprit is electronic devices.
They stay up using smartphones and tablets. The emitted blue light also wakes up the brain - making it harder to drop off.
The phenomenon reduces mental health, academic performance and increases the risk behavioral problems.
A survey by the World Health Organization found British teenagers are among the worst sleepers in Europe - with over four in ten struggling to get a good night's kip.
Now a study at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center has found it can lead to weight gain and other cardiometabolic diseases - such as type 2 diabetes.
Analysis of 93 teens showed they have worse dietary habits when they sleep less, report the US team.
Participants underwent two conditions - spending six and a half and nine and a half hours a night in bed for one week.
Dr. Duraccio and colleagues measured the caloric intake, macronutrient content, food types and glycemic, or blood sugar, load eaten.
Those undergoing short sleep consumed more foods and drinks that were likely to spike blood sugar fast compared to when they were enjoying healthy sleep.
They were high in carbs and added sugar. The changes largely occurred in the late evening, after 9 P.M.
They also ate fewer fruits and vegetables across the entire day when they got less sleep.
Dr. Duraccio added: "What is interesting is getting less sleep didn't cause teens to eat more than their peers getting healthy sleep; both groups consumed roughly the same amounts of calories of food. But getting less sleep caused teens to eat more junk.
"We suspect that tired teens are looking for quick bursts of energy to keep them going until they can go to bed, so they're seeking out foods that are high in carbs and added sugars."
The study in SLEEP found they consumed 12 extra grams of sugar each day. With most teenagers not getting sufficient sleep during the 180 nights of a school year, this would result in over 4.5 pounds of extra sugar.
Dr. Duraccio said: "We know pediatric obesity is an epidemic, and we have focused on a lot of interventions to try and address it, but sleep is not one of the things that researchers tend to focus on.
"If we are really trying to discover preventative strategies or interventions to increase optimal weight in teens, getting enough and well-timed sleep should be at the forefront of our efforts."
She admits it is difficult for teenagers to maintain a healthy sleeping schedule. They are busy with rigorous academic schedules and a slew of extracurricular activities.
Compound this with early start times for school and the result is short and ill-timed sleeping patterns that become a habit.
Dr. Duraccio added: "It is human nature to think when we have a long to do list, sleep should be the first thing to go or the easiest thing to cut out.
"We don't recognize getting enough sleep helps you accomplish your to do list better. Sleep health should be incorporated into all prevention and intervention modules for child obesity."
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