Health Advice



Sleep More, Snack Less

Charlyn Fargo on

Who knew our sleep and snack habits were so intertwined? It turns out sleep influences two key hormones that are linked to appetite. Ghrelin makes you feel hungry, and poor sleep increases this hormone. Leptin makes you feel full, and poor sleep decreases this hormone.

So, when you don't sleep well, you're more likely to feel hungry. And according to a few new studies, we tend to skip the salad to feed that hunger and grab unhealthy, processed snack foods instead.

Scientists found that people who got seven hours or more sleep ate significantly less sugar, caffeine and carbohydrate as part of their morning and evening snacks. Conversely, those who slept less than the recommended seven hours tended to make poorer snacking choices the next day, especially in the earlier and later parts of the day. The research was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and presented in a poster session at the group's Food & Nutrition Conference in October.

The researchers found that seven hours of sleep for adults seemed to be the magic number for making better decisions about what to choose for a snack. In the study, more than 20,000 U.S. adults, ages 20 to 60, were put into two groups -- those who slept less than seven hours a night, and those who slept more than seven hours. Those sleeping less than seven hours were more likely to snack on high-calorie foods with little nutritional value. The study was published in the September 2021 issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Similar results for children and adolescents were found in a study published in the April 2020 issue of Food Science & Nutrition. Researchers at Isfahan University of Medical Sciences in Isfahan, Iran, looked at the relationship between sleep duration and eating snacks in a national sample of children and adolescents, ages 6 to 18. Out of 14,274 students, 50.7% were boys. Some 71.4% of the students were urban residents. The students' average sleep duration was 8.57 hours. It turns out children under 10 need 10 hours of sleep and children over 10 need nine hours. Researchers found a significant relationship between sleep duration and age, socioeconomic status, place of residence, physical activity, and duration of watching TV and working with computers.

The less sleep students got, the more salty snacks, soft drinks, fast foods, tea and tea with sugar they consumed. In addition, less sleep resulted in fewer fresh and dried fruits, vegetables, milk, yogurt and fresh juices.


Researchers concluded that lower sleep duration can be associated with unhealthy eating habits and could result in obesity in children and adolescents.

As we enter this busy holiday season, take time to sleep -- both you and your children. Your eating habits will benefit.

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