Causes, Consequences And Food Choices Of Sleep-Deprived Teens

Why Sleep-Deprived Teens Are Seeking Out Junk Food

Dec 27 • Mental Health • 2361 Views • Comments Off on Why Sleep-Deprived Teens Are Seeking Out Junk Food

Sleep deprivation is a situation that occurs when an individual doesn’t get enough restful sleep to sustain active participation in his or her daily routine. Some sources of sleep deprivation qualify as diagnosable mental health issues under the widely used guidelines established in the U.S. by the American Psychiatric Association. According to the results of a study released in June 2013 by the State University of New York at Stony Brook, sleep-deprived teenagers significantly increase their intake of foods that don’t promote ongoing good health, and also decrease their intake of foods that do promote good health.

Sleep Deprivation In Teens

The cutoff point for the onset of sleep deprivation varies depending on the population group under consideration. For example, deprivation can appear in adults who frequently don’t get at least seven or eight hours of sleep each night. Teenagers need more sleep than adults, and therefore have a lower sleep deprivation threshold. While the exact requirement may vary from person to person, the average teen needs to get slightly more than nine hours of restful sleep per night. However, the vast majority of teenagers don’t get nine hours of sleep, the National Sleep Foundation reports. In fact, some sources indicate that as few as 15 percent of U.S. teens meet this minimum sleep requirement during the school week.

Causes Of Sleep Deprivation

Recognized mental disorders that can contribute to the presence of sleep deprivation include insomnia, restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy and obstructive sleep apnea. All of these conditions appear in teens with some frequency.

Other potential sleep deprivation causes include physical discomfort or illness, extended work-related or personal schedules, and purely voluntary sleep restrictions.

Consequences Of Sleep Deprivation

Apart from issues related to food consumption, potential consequences of sleep deprivation in adolescents include a reduced ability to concentrate or retain information, a reduced ability to recall memories, an increase in impatient or aggressive behavior, increased risks for acne outbreaks, increased susceptibility to the intoxicating effects of alcohol, increased susceptibility to the stimulating effects of nicotine or caffeine, and increased risks for various kinds of illness.

Sleep Deprivation And Food Choices

In the study released by Stony Brook University, a team of researchers examined the eating habits of more than 13,000 teenagers. These teens were divided into three groups: individuals who sleep more than eight hours on the average night, individuals who get seven to eight hours of sleep on the average night, and individuals who get less than seven hours of sleep on the average night. To increase the accuracy of their findings, the researchers took steps to neutralize the effects of other potential influences on dietary choices, including ethnicity, gender, home environment, level of exercise participation and family income.

After reviewing the available data, the authors of the study concluded that, when compared to teens that sleep more per night, teenagers who regularly get less than seven hours of sleep have substantially increased chances of eating at least two nutritionally poor fast food meals in a given week. This same group also has substantially decreased chances of including health-promoting foods such as vegetables and fruits in their weekly diets. These findings hold true even when all other factors that have an impact on dietary choices are taken into consideration.

Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS), Depression And Carb Cravings

Sleep deprivation typically produces a condition called excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS). People affected by this condition have difficulty staying awake while involved in various daily activities. In a study released in 2011 by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, a team of researchers examined the effects of excessive daytime sleepiness on the dietary choices of teenagers. These researchers concluded that teens affected by EDS experience a 50 percent spike in their appetite for carbohydrate-based foods that tend to promote weight gain. Teens only moderately affected by daytime sleepiness have lower levels of carbohydrate craving, and teens unaffected by daytime sleepiness have even lower level of carbohydrate craving (or, in some cases, no real carb cravings at all).

Interestingly, the authors of the study released by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine also report a link between strong carbohydrate cravings and increased risks for the onset of depression in teenagers. Roughly 34 percent of teens with these prominent cravings develop depression symptoms, while only 22 percent of teens with milder or non-existent carb cravings develop depression symptoms. In teens with the worst depression symptoms, carbohydrate cravings rise as high as 200 percent above average.

Read About The Warning Signs Of Deadly Eating Disorders In Teens And Potentially Help Save Your Teen!

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