Sleep-Deprived Teens Eat More Fat, Study Finds

Teens who sleep less than eight hours a night are more likely to eat a high-fat diet that puts them at risk for obesity and the many health problems connected with it, new research shows. The study, published in the Sept. 1 issue of the journal Sleep, found that these sleep-deprived teens consumed 2.2 percent more calories from fat, and ate more snacks than those who slept eight hours or more a night. They also ate more total calories. "There's been a lot of research over the last five years implicating insufficient sleep with obesity," said study author Dr. Susan Redline, of Brigham and Women's Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

"Some experimental studies on sleep deprivation in controlled laboratory environments show a craving for fatty foods among the participants" who got less sleep, she said. Redline, a professor of medicine with the school's division of sleep medicine, said sleep-deprived teens may suffer from metabolic disturbances that have been linked to obesity and insulin resistance in other research with shift workers whose sleep was also irregular. Metabolism is the body's process for turning calories into energy. Lack of sleep can affect metabolism by changing the level of appetite-regulating hormones like leptin and ghrelin, setting the stage for poor eating habits, Redline explained.

In addition to being a possible cause of metabolic problems, fewer hours of sleep provided teens with "more opportunities to eat," Redline said. Teens need about nine hours of sleep every night to feel rested and alert the next day, but few teens get that amount, experts said. "I almost never see anyone who is sleeping more than seven hours a night," said Dr. Paula Elbirt, an associate professor of pediatrics and adolescent medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. Insufficient sleep among teens is "the rule, not the exception," she said. Elbirt said the "adolescent lifestyle" encourages teens to stay up late.
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