Are you getting enough rest? It’s possible that you’re overindulging in snacks.

According to the conclusions of a new study, those who don’t get the recommended seven or more hours of sleep per night make worse snacking decisions than those who follow the standards. The research will be presented in a poster session on October 18 at the 2021 Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo, according to the study abstract published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

An examination of over 20,000 American adults’ data revealed a correlation between not getting enough sleep and eating more snack-related carbohydrates, added sugar, fats, and caffeine. Adults’ preferred non-meal food categories – salty snacks and sweets, as well as non-alcoholic beverages – are the same regardless of sleep habits, although those who get less sleep consume more snack calories in a day.

The study also uncovered what appears to be a common American behavior that is unaffected by how much sleep we get: late-night munching. “At night, we’re drinking our calories and consuming a lot of convenience foods,” said Christopher Taylor, senior author of the study and professor of medical dietetics at The Ohio State University’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences.

“When we stay up late, we are not only not sleeping, but we are also engaging in all of the obesity-related behaviors: lack of physical exercise, increased screen time, and food choices that are consumed as snacks rather than meals. As a result, meeting or not meeting sleep recommendations has a greater influence “Taylor noted.

Adults should sleep seven hours or more every night on a regular basis, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society. Sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk of a variety of health issues, including weight gain and obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

“We know that lack of sleep is associated with obesity on a larger scale,” Taylor explained, “but it’s all these small behaviors that are rooted around how that happens.”

Researchers looked at data from 19,650 persons in the United States aged 20 to 60 who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2007 and 2018.

The poll asked respondents about their usual amount of nighttime sleep throughout the workweek and collected 24-hour dietary recalls from each participant, including not just what, but when, all food was ingested. The Ohio State team classified participants as either meeting or failing to fulfill sleep recommendations based on whether they reported sleeping seven hours or less each night.

The researchers evaluated participants’ snack-related nutrient intake and classified all snacks into dietary groups using data from the United States Department of Agriculture. The study used three snacking time frames: 2:00-11:59 a.m. in the morning, noon-5:59 p.m. in the afternoon, and 6 p.m.-1:59 a.m. in the evening. Statistical analysis revealed that virtually everyone (95.5%) ate at least one snack per day, with soda and energy drinks accounting for almost half of all snacking calories consumed by all participants, as well as chips, pretzels, cookies, and pastries.

Those who did not meet sleep requirements were more likely to consume a morning snack and less likely to eat an afternoon snack than those who slept seven or more hours a night, and they ate larger quantities of snacks with more calories and less nutritious value. Though there are many physiological elements at play in the relationship between sleep and health, Taylor believes that modifying behavior, namely avoiding the evening snack can help adults not only fulfill sleep standards but also improve their diet.

“Meeting sleep recommendations not only helps us satisfy that specific requirement for sleep that is related to our health, but it also helps us avoid doing things that can affect our health,” said Taylor, a qualified dietitian.

“We have more possibilities to consume the longer we are awake. And those calories come from snacks and sweets at night. We’re introducing calories and foods linked to an increased risk of the chronic disease every time we make those selections, and we’re not receiving whole grains, fruits, and vegetables “Taylor added.

“Even if you’re in bed trying to fall asleep, at least you’re not eating – so if you can get yourself to bed, that’s a start,” Taylor explained.

Emily Potosky, Randy Wexler, and Keeley Pratt, all of Ohio State, are co-authors of the study.

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