Sleep duration is related to poor diet in teens

By Katherine Maiorisi

What do our brains do while we sleep?

A study conducted by Dr. Hale at Stony Brook University has developed data that shows a direct link between sleep deprivation and obesity in teens. This study, which was supported by the “National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney diseases”, was done on a sample of 13,284 teenagers [1]. Dr. Hale specified that this study group of teens were asked questions based off of the Second Wave of National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which was collected in the mid 1990’s. Questions focused on typical sleep duration, dietary choices, socioeconomic status, screen time, physical activity, and other factors that may be taken into account when considering obesity. According to Dr. Hale, the research project was “particularly interested in questions about healthy food choices and unhealthy food choices”. A healthy food choice constitutes at least one fruit or vegetable throughout the day, and unhealthy food choice would be fast food two or more times per week [2]. Based off of the student’s answers to these questions, they were placed into one of three categories: “short sleepers”, who sleep less than seven hours per night, “mid-range sleepers”, who sleep seven to eight hours per night, and “recommended sleepers” who receive more than eight hours of sleep per night. The results showed that eighteen percent of the students were “short sleepers”, and these students were more likely to consume fast food two or more times per week and less likely to make healthy choices. The study determined that sleep duration had its own independent effect on obesity, separate of the other factors that were considered in the survey [1].

Dr. Hale will be continuing the study over the next two years and is currently collecting data from 1,000 teens that will have their activity, sleeping, and eating habits monitored for a week. The data on sleep and activity will be monitored through an actigraphy to produce more accurate results over a longer period of time. Dr. Hale’s recommendations for college students for maintaining a healthy lifestyle is to plan ahead and go to sleep at the same time every night, providing an environment in which it is easier to make healthy choices [2].


[1] 2013. Study Reveals Link Between Sleep Deprivation and Poor Dietary Choices in Teens. Stony Brook Medicine.

[2] Hale, Lauren. Email interview. 07 February 2014.


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