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Stanford Medicine

Mental Health, Nutrition, Sleep

Sleep deprivation may increase young adults' risk of mental distress, obesity

Sleep deprivation may increase young adults' risk of mental distress, obesity

A pair of studies published in the latest issue of SLEEP add to the growing body of research that shows insufficient sleep may be harmful to young adults’ well-being (it also underscores the importance of sleep for this age group).

In the first study involving 240 volunteers ages 16 to 19, researchers found participants who slept less than eight hours per weeknight ate higher proportions of fatty foods and snacks than those who slept eight hours or more. According to the release:

The results suggest that short sleep duration may increase obesity risk by causing small changes in eating patterns that cumulatively alter energy balance, especially in girls. . .

…The authors noted that it is unclear why the association between shorter sleep durations and unhealthy dietary habits may be stronger in girls than boys. However, one explanation may be the increased propensity for female teens to engage in emotional eating.

A separate study involving 2,937 participants ages 17 to 24 showed individuals who get fewer than eight hours of sleep each night have greater risks of psychological distress.

According to that release:

The risk of psychological distress increased by 14 percent for each hour of nightly sleep loss, such that those sleeping less than six hours a night were twice as likely to be experiencing distress as average sleepers. A similar association was found between sleep duration and persistent psychological distress; the risk that a person with psychological distress at baseline would be distressed at the one-year follow-up increased by five percent for each hour of nightly sleep loss after adjusting for potential confounders.

Previously: Catching up on sleep science and Sleep deprivation more common in the U.S. than Europe
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