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How sleeping enough can help you maintain your weight

A new study suggests that people who miss the recommended sleep guidelines make poorer snacking choices than those who adhere to them 

How sleep patterns and snacking decisions are linked 
How sleep patterns and snacking decisions are linked  (The Organic Crave Company (Unsplash))

Late-night Netflix binges can do more than leave you feeling exhausted the next day; they could also add pounds to your waistline.  According to a new study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, people who miss the recommended seven or more hours of sleep per night might make poorer snacking choices than those who adhere to shut-eye guidelines.

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ANI reported that data analysis on almost 20,000 American adults showed a link between not meeting sleep recommendations and eating more snack-related carbohydrates, added sugar, fats and caffeine. Of course, carrot and hummus aren't everyone's preferred snacks, whether you sleep or not. Most people's favourite non-meal food categories include salty snacks and sweets and non-alcoholic drinks, regardless of sleep habits.  However, "those getting less sleep tend to eat more snack calories in a day overall," said the study. 

Another thing the research threw up was something not influenced by sleep--nighttime snacking."At night, we're drinking our calories and eating a lot of convenience foods," said Christopher Taylor, professor of medical dietetics in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at The Ohio State University and senior author of the study.

According to him, staying up at night take away from hours that should be spent sleeping. It also results in obesity-related behaviours: lack of physical activity, increased screen time, food choices that we're consuming as snacks and not as meals. "It creates this bigger impact of meeting or not meeting sleep recommendations," he added. 

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According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society, adults need to sleep seven hours or longer to promote optimal health regularly. Getting less sleep than recommended is associated with a higher risk for several health problems, including weight gain and obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease, it stated. "We know lack of sleep is linked to obesity from a broader scale, but it's all these little behaviours that are anchored around how that happens," said Taylor.

ANI reported that researchers analyzed data from 19,650 U.S. adults between the ages of 20 and 60 who had participated from 2007 to 2018 in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The survey collected 24-hour dietary recalls from each participant - detailing not just what but when all food was consumed - and questions people about their average amount of nightly sleep during the workweek. 

Participants were divided into those who either did or didn't meet sleep recommendations based on whether they reported sleeping seven or more hours or fewer than seven hours each night. According to ANI, statistical analysis showed that almost everyone - 95.5 per cent - ate at least one snack a day, and over 50 per cent of snacking calories among all participants came from two broad categories that included soda and energy drinks and chips, pretzels, cookies and pastries.However, those who did not meet sleep recommendations ate more snacks with a higher calorific and lower nutritional value.

Taylor pointed out that changing sleep behaviours, especially avoiding night eating, could help adults meet sleep guidelines and improve their diet."Meeting sleep recommendations helps us meet that specific need for sleep-related to our health, but is also tied to not doing the things that can harm health," said Taylor, a registered dietitian. He points out that the more one is awake, the more opportunities one has to eat. "At night, those calories are coming from snacks and sweets," he said, adding that this not just leads to people introducing calories and items related to increased risk for chronic disease but also reduces chances of getting whole grains, fruits and vegetables. "Even if you're in bed and trying to fall asleep, at least you're not in the kitchen eating - so if you can get yourself to bed, that's a starting point," he noted 

(With inputs from ANI)

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