EDOR members have recently published novel research showing that when children sleep less, they change what and how they eat.
The DREAM study asked children to go to bed one hour later each night for one week and one hour earlier each night for one week to see what happened to health behaviours such as diet, physical activity and screen time.
The study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that with just 40 minutes less sleep per night for one week, children consumed substantially more calories than when they had more sleep. These extra calories were mostly from highly processed, calorie dense foods such as biscuits, cakes and crisps (rather than fruits and vegetables).
EDOR PhD student, Rosie Jackson, who led the research along with Dr Silke Morrison, says that a change in approach is needed for the prevention and treatment of childhood obesity.
"A lot of time has been invested into dietary approaches to improve health. Our results suggest that maybe we should be focusing our efforts on improving sleep too", says Ms Jackson.
Parents of the participants also reported that their children changed their eating habits in response to their emotions when they had less sleep:
"It may have been that the children ate less of the healthier foods in response to emotions (for example not eating their vegetables at dinner time) yet ate more in response to emotions when around highly appealing foods such as chips, lollies and biscuits".
Now that the researchers understand more about how sleep influences health behaviours, the next step is to use this information to improve health outcomes for children.
"Sleep is important for many aspects of our lives including our mental and physical wellbeing. Now that we have evidence that eating and emotions are linked to sleep in young people, we need to find the most effective ways of improving sleep in our tamariki," says Ms Jackson.
DREAM in the media
- Children's sleep affects eating habits: Research, Otago Daily Times, 15 March 2023
- Small changes in children's sleep lead to significant changes in eating habits, University of Otago, 15 March 2023
Learn more about EDOR's sleep research
- DREAM: Diet, Rest, Eating and Activity Monitoring
- The BED study
- Moemoeā - sleep, health, communication and wellbeing
- POI - Prevention of overweight in infancy
Read the publications from the DREAM study
- Morrison, S., Jackson, R., Haszard, J. J., Galland, B. C., Meredith-Jones, K. A., Fleming, E. A., … Elder, D. E., … Taylor, R. W. (2023). The effect of modest changes in sleep on dietary intake and eating behavior in children: Secondary outcomes of a randomized crossover trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 117, 317-325. doi: 10.1016/j.ajcnut.2022.10.007
- Morrison, S., Haszard, J. J., Galland, B. C., Jackson, R., Meredith-Jones, K. A., Elder, D. E., & Taylor, R. W. (2022). Where does the time go when children don't sleep? A randomized crossover study. Obesity. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1002/oby.23615
- Jackson R, Haszard JJ, Morrison S, Galland BC, McIntosh D, Ward AL, Meredith-Jones KA, Taylor RW. Measuring short-term eating behaviour and desire to eat: Validation of the child eating behaviour questionnaire and a computerized 'desire to eat' computerized questionnaire. Appetite. 2021 Dec 1;167:105661. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2021.105661.
- Morrison S, Galland BC, Haszard JJ, Jackson R, McIntosh DR, Beebe DW, Elder DE, Ward AL, Meredith-Jones K, Taylor RW. Eating in the absence of hunger in children with mild sleep loss: a randomized crossover trial with learning effects. Am J Clin Nutr. 2021 Oct 4;114(4):1428-1437. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqab203.
- Ward AL, Jospe M, Morrison S, Reynolds AN, Kuroko S, Fangupo LJ, Smith C, Galland BC, Taylor RW. Bidirectional associations between sleep quality or quantity, and dietary intakes or eating behaviors in children 6–12 years old: A systematic review with evidence mapping. Nutrition Reviews. Published online 13 January 2021. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuaa125
- Ward AL, Reynolds AN, Kuroko S, Fangupo LJ, Galland BC, Taylor RW. Bidirectional associations between sleep and dietary intake in 0-5 year old children: A systematic review with evidence mapping. Sleep Med Rev. 2020 Feb;49:101231. doi: 10.1016/j.smrv.2019.101231
- Ward AL, Galland BC, Haszard JJ, Meredith-Jones K, Morrison S, McIntosh DR, Jackson R, Beebe DW, Fangupo L, Richards R, Te Morenga L, Smith C, Elder DE, Taylor RW. The effect of mild sleep deprivation on diet and eating behaviour in children: protocol for the Daily Rest, Eating, and Activity Monitoring (DREAM) randomized cross-over trial. BMC Public Health. 2019 Oct 22;19(1):1347. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-019-7628-x