Sleep loss linked to nighttime snacks and more

Nighttime snacking and junk food cravings represent a potential link between poor sleep and obesity, according to a new study released by sleep researchers at the University of Arizona.

Researchers found that junk food cravings were associated with double the increase in the likelihood of nighttime snacking, which as associated with an increased risk for diabetes. They also determined that poor sleep quality seemed to be a major predictor of junk food cravings, and that junk food cravings were associated with a greater likelihood of participants in the study reporting obesity, diabetes and other health problems.

“Laboratory studies suggest that sleep deprivation can lead to junk food cravings at night, which leads to increased unhealthy snacking sat night, which then leads to weight gain,” said Michael A. Grandner, an assistant professor of psychiatry and director of the UA Sleep and Health Research Program and the UA Behavioral Sleep Medicine Clinic. “This connection between poor sleep, junk food cravings and unhealthy nighttime snacking may represent an important way that sleep helps regulate metabolism.”

The study was conducted through a nationwide, phone-based survey of 3,105 adults from 23 metropolitan areas.  Participants were asked if they regularly consumed a nighttime snack and if lack of sleep led them to crave junk food.  They were also asked about the quality of their sleep and existing health problems.

About 60 percent of participants acknowledged regular nighttime snacking and two-thirds said lack of sleep led them to crave more junk food.