The Surprising Link Between Your Teen's Sleeping & Eating Habits


There are many reasons why teens may not be getting as much sleep as they should. Maybe they were up late studying for a difficult math exam or talking to their friends on the myriad of messaging apps. One thing’s for sure, the amount of sleep they get determines more than just how groggy they’ll be the next morning.

A new study shows that irregular sleeping patterns have an effect on how much teens eat. Penn State researchers analyzed the sleeping habits of 342 teenagers. They found that these teens slept about seven hours per night, on average. (Teens should get between 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night, according to the National Sleep Foundation.) They found that the amount of sleep they got affected how much they ate that day.

According to their study, if the amount of time teens slept varied by an hour—whether it was less sleep or more—it was associated with:

  • Eating 201 more calories per day
  • Consuming about 6 grams more total fat and 32 grams more carbohydrates daily
  • 60 percent higher chance of nighttime snacking on school nights
  • 100 percent higher chance of nighttime munching on weekends

The lead author on the study, Fan He, M.S., explains further:

According to the data from our study, it’s not how long you sleep that matters. It’s about day-to-day variations in how long you sleep. This is the first study to objectively measure the teens’ sleeping pattern and physical activity for over a week in association with their eating habits in a free-living environment, instead of under laboratory conditions.

Unsurprisingly, the study showed that teens are likely to sleep more on weekends than school days. Share this information with your teen so they can make better choices when it comes to their sleeping and eating habits. If you’re looking for ways to help your teen get a better night’s sleep tonight, we have some suggestions.

For more about the importance of sleep, check out “The Teen Who Woke Up Her School.” The story was featured in the September issue of Choices—a teen health, well-being, and life skills magazine.