Nighttime snacking and junk food cravings may contribute to unhealthy eating behaviors and represent a potential link between poor sleep and obesity, according to a study by University of Arizona Health Sciences sleep researchers.
The nationwide, phone-based survey of 3,105 adults from 23 U.S. metropolitan areas asked participants if they regularly ate a nighttime snack and whether lack of sleep led them to crave junk food. They also were asked about their sleep quality and existing health problems.
About 60 percent of participants reported regular nighttime snacking and two-thirds reported that lack of sleep caused them to crave more junk food.
The researchers found that junk food cravings were associated with double the risk of snacking at night, which was tied to greater risk of having diabetes. Poor sleep quality seemed to be a major predictor of craving junk food, and that these cravings were associated with a greater likelihood participants reported being obesity, having diabetes or other health problems.
This connection between poor sleep, junk food cravings and unhealthy nighttime snacking may represent an important way that sleep helps regulate metabolism. Sleep is increasingly recognized as an important factor in health, alongside nutrition.
The study was presented at SLEEP 2018, the 32nd annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC (APSS), June 2-6 in Baltimore.
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