Too Little Sleep May Increase Obesity Risk

First Posted: Dec 13, 2015 07:37 PM EST

Short sleep--or sleep that consists of less than seven hours at a time--may contribute to increased periods of distracted eating and drinking, according to a recent study.

Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that short sleep is linked with more time spent in secondary eating and secondary drinking. The findings suggest a pathway from short sleep to increased caloric intake in the form of beverages and distracted eating and how this may increase the risk of obesity.

"The association between short sleep and obesity risk is well-established," Gabriel S. Tajeu, DrPH, a postdoctoral fellow in UAB's Department of Epidemiology, said in a news release. "However, we are looking at whether short sleep is linked to more time spent in secondary eating or drinking, that is, eating or drinking beverages other than water -- such as sugar-sweetened beverages -- while primarily engaged in another activity, such as television watching."

During the study, researchers examined data from 28,150 American adults between the ages of 21 and 65 who were part of the American Time Use Survey, which took place between 2006 and 2008. The investigators determine how much time participants spent on secondary eating and drinking, with sleep duration as a principle independent variable.

Researchers estimated multivariable regression models--an analysis technique that uses multiple variables including participants' demographic characteristics like race and gender, socioeconomic characteristics and weekday versus weekend participation in ATUS, in order to determine the association of short sleep and eating and drinking behaviors, according to researchers.

Findings revealed that when compared to counterparts who received more sleep, those who reported shorter sleep periods engaged in secondary eating an additional 8.7 minutes a day as well as an additional 28.6 and 31.28 minutes daily of secondary drinking on weekdays and weekends, respectively.

The study is published in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

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