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People who do not get enough sleep are more likely to eat late into the night and crave junk food, putting them at greater risk of poor health.
This is according to a new study from the University of Arizona, which surveyed 3,105 adults living in the US and highlighted a potentially important link between sleep habits and unhealthy diets.
It was shown that around 60 per cent of study participants reported regular nighttime snacking, while two-thirds said a lack of sleep led them to crave more junk food. These cravings were associated with double the increase in the likelihood of nighttime snacking, which in turn was linked to a greater increased risk for diabetes.
Meanwhile, poor sleep quality was indicated to be a major predictor of junk food cravings, leading to a greater likelihood of participants reporting obesity, diabetes and other health problems.
Dr Michael Grandner, assistant professor of psychiatry and director of the University of Arizona Sleep and Health Research Program, said: "Laboratory studies suggest that sleep deprivation can lead to junk food cravings at night, which leads to increased unhealthy snacking at night, which then leads to weight gain.
"This study provides important information about the process, that these laboratory findings may actually translate to the real world. This connection between poor sleep, junk food cravings and unhealthy nighttime snacking may represent an important way that sleep helps regulate metabolism."
It is increasingly recognised that sleep patterns play a key role in overall health, alongside nutrition, with this research showing how the two are linked and work together to promote wellbeing. With sleep and wakefulness disorders affecting a significant percentage of people, the importance of addressing sleep problems to ensure healthy eating habits should be an area of focus.
Written by Martin Lambert
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