Well-rested teenagers tend to make more healthy food choices than their sleep-deprived peers, according to a new study.
The findings led by Lauren Hale, Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University School of Medicine in US may be key to understanding the link between sleep and obesity.
"Not only do sleepy teens on average eat more food that's bad for them, they also eat less food that is good for them," said Hale.
"While we already know that sleep duration is associated with a range of health consequences, this study speaks to some of the mechanisms, ie, nutrition and decision making, through which health outcomes are affected," said Hale.
The study examined the association between sleep duration and food choices in a national representative sample of 13,284 teenagers in the second wave of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. The data were collected in 1996 when the interview subjects had a mean age of 16 years.
Researchers found that those teens who reported sleeping fewer than seven hours per night - 18 per cent of respondents - were more likely to consume fast food two or more times per week and less likely to eat healthful food such as fruits and vegetables.
The results took into account factors such as age, gender, race and ethnicity, socioeconomic status, physical activity and family structure, and found that short sleep duration had an independent effect on both healthy and unhealthy food choices.
The respondents fell into one of three categories: short sleepers, who received fewer than seven hours per night; mid-range sleepers, who had seven to eight hours per night; and recommended sleepers, who received more than eight hours per night.
The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends that adolescents get between nine and 10 hours of sleep per night.
The study was presented at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.