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Changes in Sleep Routines Affect Teens' Eating Habits

The Short of It

A study presented at the American Heart Association EPI/Lifestyle 2015 meeting found that when teenagers' day-to-day sleep habits varied, they tended to eat more calories throughout the day and indulged in more nighttime snacks.

The Lowdown

Penn State researchers measured 342 teens' patterns of activity and rest over seven days, and asked them to log their food intake. What they found was that, when teens' snooze time varied by an hour—an hour more or less than usual—they ate an average of 201 more calories daily. They also consumed about six grams more total fat and 32 grams more carbohydrates per day. They were 60 percent more likely to snack on weeknights and 100 percent more likely to snack on weekend nights.

The Upshot

Researchers don't know exactly why the teens' eating was affected. They theorize that getting fewer zzz's creates a "couch potato" effect the next day, making the teen more likely to be sedentary and seek extra snacks. There's also a possibility that the sleep changes cause a hormonal imbalance that affects appetite.

This data could help researchers get to the bottom of why teens who don't get enough sleep are at a greater risk for obesity.

"According to the data from our study, it's not how long you sleep that matters. It's about day-to-day variations in how long you sleep," said study author Fan He, M.S., an epidemiologist at Penn State University College of Medicine, in a press release.

Sleep is vitally important to our kids' health, even as they grow older and more independent. So make sure that your teen gets plenty of shuteye but, more importantly, that she sticks to a consistent sleep routine.

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