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Lack of sleep could trigger unhealthy snacking habits

Photo: Andrii Bicher/iStockphoto

Columbus, OH — People who typically sleep less than seven hours a night may be more likely to snack on salty and sugary foods throughout the day, results of a recent Ohio State University study suggest.

Researchers assessed 2007-2018 data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, analyzing 24-hour dietary recall responses from nearly 20,000 adults. Findings show that sleeping less than seven hours a night likely steered individuals to consume more carbohydrates, added sugar, fats and caffeine derived from snack foods – over half of which included soda and energy drinks, chips, pretzels, cookies, and pastries.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get seven to nine hours of sleep a night.


“We know lack of sleep is linked to obesity from a broader scale, but it’s all these little behaviors that are anchored around how all that happens,” Christopher Taylor, study co-author and professor of medical dietetics at OSU’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, said in a press release. Unhealthy habits may persist as the day wears on, Taylor added.

“At night, we’re drinking our calories and eating a lot of convenience foods,” he said. “Not only are we not sleeping when we stay up late, but we’re doing all these obesity-related behaviors: lack of physical activity, increased screen time, food choices that we’re consuming as snacks and not as meals. So it creates this bigger impact.”

The study was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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