We have all heard–endlessly, I would guess–about how important it is to get your eight hours in. Which is great and all, but how many high school and college students actually get enough sleep? Between busy work masquerading as homework, ten-page papers we like to put off for later, and early class times, it might seem impossible to get enough sleep.
One group of researchers studied the effects of sleep restriction on hunger and how appealing sweets looked (compared to fruits, vegetables, meats, and eggs) on a group of students, fourteen to seventeen years old.
The results weren’t exactly surprising…
Though the sample size was small (31 high school aged students), this randomized clinical trial showed that the appeal of sweets was higher in sleep deprived students (p-value=0.045). Not only that, but caloric intake increased by 11% (if we are looking at a 2000 calorie daily diet, that’s 220 extra calories per day or 23 pounds in weight gain in a year). The number of servings of sweet foods that the students ate when sleep restricted increased by over 50 percent when compared to sweets eaten when adequately rested.
While this study wasn’t perfect–it was kind of small and pretty short–it does raise some interesting points. As adolescents and young adults, we are becoming more independent. We’re making our own choices about food; choices that begin to create a pattern for our futures. Since sleep can have such a profound effect on our food choices, we should make getting adequate sleep a priority–not just for now, but for our health futures.