WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
New research demonstrates that adolescents who chronically get less than the recommended amount of sleep eat fast food more often than adolescents who get more sleep.
WHAT THIS MEANS
It’s no surprise that getting an adequate amount of sleep plays a critically important role in children’s wellbeing. Sleep impacts the ability of children to engage meaningfully with their parents, peers and teachers. It also affects their levels of irritability and concentration during activities and assignments, as well as the ability to perform well during sports and extracurricular activities. Most recently, a lack of sleep has been shown to impact a child’s eating habits as well.1
WHAT THE RESEARCH SHOWS
In a nationally representative study of over 13,000 adolescents, fruit and vegetable consumption was measured along with fast food consumption. Intake was measured for fruit and vegetable intake by asking the child if s/he had eaten a fruit and a vegetable at least once during the previous day. Fast food consumption was measured by asking if s/he had eaten fast food zero to one or two or more times in the past 7 days. The American Academy of Pediatrics breaks sleep duration into three categories:
- Short sleep duration: <7 hours/night
- Mid-range sleep duration: 7-8 hours/night
- Recommended sleep duration: >8 hours/night
Overall, more than half of adolescents in this study (58%) were consuming fast food two or more times a week. The study also revealed that adolescents who are chronically sleep deprived (short duration sleepers, <7 hours/night) are more likely to consume fewer fruits and vegetables. Lower levels of fruit and veggie consumption was not associated with either the mid-range or recommended sleep durations, thus demonstrating that short sleepers are more vulnerable than those adolescents with seven or more hours of sleep per night.
In this day and age there are a plethora of distractions and obligations that lead to disrupted sleep or that cause adolescents to lose much-needed sleep. In addition, parents’ sleeping habits greatly impact the sleep habits that their children form. For example, the National Sleep Foundation reports that nearly two-thirds of children whose parents have one or more “interactive” electronics (tablet or smartphone, laptop or desktop computer, and/or video game) in their bedroom also have at least one device in their own bedroom. When parents do not have these types of electronics in their rooms, only 24% of children have a device in their bedroom.2 Parents can set the tone for healthy eating habits in many ways, and one important way is through creating an environment and schedule that allows a child to get at least 7 hours or more of sleep each night.
8 Tips For Getting A Good Night’s Sleep
- Avoid napping during the day. It can disturb the normal pattern of sleep and wakefulness.
- Avoid stimulants such as caffeine too close to bedtime. And, remember, chocolate has caffeine!
- Be physically active throughout the day to promote good sleep. Relaxing exercises, like yoga and stretching, can be done before bed to help initiate a restful night’s sleep.
- Avoid eating large meals close to bedtime.
- Ensure adequate exposure to natural light, as daily light exposure helps maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
- Establish a regular relaxing bedtime routine and go to bed around the same time each night.
- Don’t bring your problems to bed. Try journaling before sleep to allow your mind to settle and release negative thoughts that could make falling asleep difficult. Also, try to avoid emotionally upsetting conversations or activities before trying to fall sleep.
- Associate your bed with sleep. It’s not a good idea to use your bed to watch TV, text, listen to music, or read.3
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