How lack of sleep affects eating habits

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Everyday there is a story somewhere in the news about the obesity epidemic. Typically, the talk turns to food and nutrition when discussing obesity. However, sometimes the answer may not be what we are eating, but how we are taking care of ourselves. Sleep is an important part of self-care and poor sleep is linked to poor nutrition outcomes for both children and adults.

I think we all can admit that if we think of our younger days (possibly in college) our best nutrition did not occur after staying up late to study or finish a project.

There is now much evidence to show that poor sleep leads to poor nutrition. Recently, an Australian study showed that when 28,010 children, ages 9-17 were studied, those that had poor sleep were more likely to skip breakfast and had an increased intake of junk food.

There is also mounting evidence that high school students do not have quality sleep. This is related to teenagers staying up late to work on homework and then having early school start times. Research has shown that high school students would benefit from sleeping later in the morning and would be more alert toward the end of the day. Therefore, if many high school students are not sleeping well, this could lead to poor nutrition, which has been linked to poor academic performance.

Recently, nutrition professionals have started to address sleep habits when assessing clients. In my practice I ask all families about their child’s sleep habits. Many times I find out that if children go to bed late it correlates with intake of high calorie low nutrient foods, like chips, cookies, and candy and skipping breakfast because they are exhausted in the morning.

Ways to improve your child’s sleep:

·       Encourage an established time for bed and a bedtime routine.

·       Reduce use of electronics and TV prior to bed and do not allow electronics in your child’s room.

·       Decrease intake of caffeine before bed. Sources of caffeine include chocolate, tea, soda, and coffee.

·       Keep on the go breakfast items on hand to encourage your child to eat breakfast after a poor night of sleep. Fueling your brain at breakfast can help to off set some of the affects of poor sleep. Suggestions for breakfast items would be whole grain muffins, breakfast burritos, bananas, and cheese sticks.

If sleep is still difficult for your child following intervention, talk with your pediatrician to see if a referral to a sleep specialist is needed. I encourage you to follow me on facebook, intagram, or twitter for more information on family health.

Family HealthAmy ReedComment