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Teenagers Who Don't Sleep Enough May Be In Trouble

While it is commonly understood that teens tend to sleep, eat, and recreate on their own schedules, recent research has shown that this may not be in their best interest, particularly where sleep is concerned. In fact, a new study suggests that not sleeping enough at night may affect how much they eat, and in turn how many essential nutrients the average teen is consuming per day. Medical News Today suggests: “Day-to-day changes in how long your teen sleeps at night might be affecting how much they eat, according to new research presented at the American Heart Association EPI/Lifestyle 2015 meeting.”

This news comes as no surprise to some parents, who have probably witnessed their teens unwillingness to sit for breakfast, but instead gorge on afterschool snacks and take seconds at dinner. One stereotype facing teen males in particular is their ability to eat at a constant rate without getting full, but the latest data from these studies proves that appetite changes may also be reflected due to sleep patterns, or lack thereof.

Monitoring Your Teen

It’s impossible to track every waking and sleeping moment of the average American teenager, but if you’re afraid your teen may be in trouble of not getting enough sleep, starting a sleep journal can be of assistance. The way that school schedules works tends to create mass fluctuation in the way that teenagers sleep during the week and on weekends. Sleepfoundation.org states: “Teens tend to have irregular sleep patterns across the week — they typically stay up late and sleep in late on the weekends, which can affect their biological clocks and hurt the quality of their sleep. Many teens suffer from treatable sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy, insomnia, restless legs syndrome or sleep apnea.”

A high stamina and active night time mindset may also account for the lateness of many teens nighttime routines. While parents tend to get tired earlier, the average teen can stay up late night after night and show minimal fatigue in comparison. Of course, they tend to make this up by sleep until noon when they can, forcing the question as to whether or not it might be more beneficial for youth to stick to a set schedule on weekdays and weekends to help regulate their biological clocks.

Following The Latest Study

The latest research was found by researching information collected from 342 teenagers, and targeting sleep patterns to determine how much sleep they were getting on average. What they found was that most teens slept about 7 hours per night, but when teens slept one hour less or one hour more than the average they consumed more calories, more carbohydrates, and had a 60% chance of eating more snacks on school nights, with a 100% chance of eating more snacks on weekend nights. Study leader Fan He M.S. is quoted by heart.org in saying: “It’s may be more important to have a regular sleep pattern than to sleep longer one day and shorter on another. These findings could help us better understand how obesity develops among young people”

The research was carried out by Penn State University, and gave the conclusion that teens who didn’t sleep enough or who slept too much were at a much higher risk of teen and adult obesity. While the main correlation in their research between sleeping and weight gain stemmed from how much teens ate on days when sleep varied, they also found that teens who slept too little or too long tended to be less active, more drowsy or lazy, and adopted what the team coined “couch potato syndrome.”

This can, of course, be true of adults as well, but when it comes to protecting the youth of America, it’s important to recognize these triggers before it’s too late. By helping get your teen on track for a better sleep routine, you could also be helping them gain perspective on life lessons that will carry through to adulthood and keep them from gaining too much weight, becoming inactive, or carrying on these issues to their children when they have teens of their own. Monitoring sleep, keeping tight routines, and making sure that your teen gets regular sized portions of food throughout the day, even while at school, are all crucial steps toward preventing obesity in relation to sleep habits.

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