Study: Poor sleep can lead to bad eating habits, medical issues

June 5 (UPI) — People with difficulty falling asleep possess poor nighttime eating habits and face an increased risk of diabetes and obesity, according to a survey.

University of Arizona Health Sciences researchers found that nighttime snacking and junk food cravings because of sleep difficulties are factors in medical problems. Their findings were presented at the 32nd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC in Baltimore.

Adults who get less than seven hours of sleep each day are more likely to report 10 chronic health conditions — including heart conditions, depression, cancer and diseases — compared with those who got enough sleep, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC determined 35.2 percent of the U.S. population gets less than seven hours of sleep per night.

“Laboratory studies suggest that sleep deprivation can lead to junk food cravings at night, which leads to increased unhealthy snacking at night, which then leads to weight gain,” Dr. Michael A. Grandner, assistant professor of psychiatry and director of the UA Sleep and Health Research Program and the UA Behavioral Sleep Medicine Clinic, said in a press release. “This study provides important information about the process, that these laboratory findings may actually translate to the real world.”

He added the connection “may represent an important way that sleep helps regulate metabolism.”

In a nationwide phone-based survey, 3,105 adults from 23 U.S. metropolitan areas were surveyed.

The researchers asked if they normally had a snack at night, and whether they craved junk food when they had trouble sleeping, in addition to about regular quality of sleep and another other health problems.

Two-thirds of the participants said lack of sleep made them want junk food, and 60 percent said they normally had a snack at night.

Cravings because of sleep loss were more likely among younger individuals with depression and poor sleep quality, and less likely among adults who never married. There was no association for sex, race, ethnicity or sleep duration.

“Sleep is increasingly recognized as an important factor in health, alongside nutrition,” said lead author Christopher Sanchez, an undergraduate nutrition and dietetics major. “This study shows how sleep and eating patterns are linked and work together to promote health.”