Researchers from Penn State presented their research at the American Heart Association EPI/Lifestyle 2015, which included data on 342 teenagers and their sleeping habits from their enrollment in the Penn State Child Cohort follow-up study.
With an average age of 17, the participants wore actigraph bracelets to monitor their sleep duration each night over a period of seven days.
Questionnaires were also answered regarding their eating habits and frequency to find out the amount of calories, fat, carbohydrates, protein and snacks that were consumed in the previous year.
While the teenagers averaged 7 hours of sleep each night, clocking in less or more snooze was linked to consuming 201 more calories each day and a 100% increased chance of nighttime snacking on the weekends. The teenagers were also 60% more likely to engage in nighttime snacking on school nights and 32 grams more carbohydrates and 6 grams more total fat consumption.
The study results were adjusted for factors such as race, sex, and BMI, but the researchers also showed without surprise that teenagers sleep more on weekends than weekdays.
“According to the data from our study, it’s not how long you sleep that matters. It’s about day-to-day variations in how long you sleep,” said lead study author Dr. Fan He. The researcher does admit that sleep duration may have had more of an influence if the teenagers were sleep deprived.
While other studies have linked poor sleep among teenagers to obesity, this is the first study to measure the sleeping habits and physical activity in connection to eating habits for more than a week outside of a laboratory, without relying on self-reported data.
Dr. He believes his research may provide more understanding of how obesity develops among young adults. He also stresses the importance of making sure we all have a regular sleep schedule, instead of sleeping in one day and shorter the next.
According to the new recommendations by the National Sleep Foundation, teenagers need between 8 and 10 hours at night for optimal health, happiness and academic success.