Does being deprived of sleep make you crave sugary drinks?

People who get five or fewer hours of sleep a night are likely to drink significantly more caffeinated sugary drinks, according to a study at University College San Francisco.

The study, which did not establish causation, will be published in the December issue of Sleep Health.

The researchers analysed the records of 18,779 participants in the US National Health and Nutrition Survey, an ongoing study of dietary habits and health. The study includes reports of sleep habits as well as total consumption of caffeinated and non-caffeinated sugary drinks.

After controlling for sociodemographic factors and health variables, the researchers found that people who regularly slept five or fewer hours a night also drank 21 per cent more caffeinated sugary drinks than those who slept seven to eight hours a night.

People who slept six hours a night consumed 11 per cent more. However, the researchers found no association between sleep duration and consumption of juice, tea or diet drinks.

The study’s lead author, Aric Prather, said: ‘We think there may be a positive feedback loop where sugary drinks and sleep loss reinforce one another, making it harder for people to eliminate their unhealthy sugar habit. This data suggests that improving people’s sleep could potentially help them break out of the cycle and cut down on their sugar intake, which we know to be linked to metabolic disease.

‘Short sleepers may seek out caffeinated sugar-sweetened beverages to increase alertness and stave off daytime sleepiness. However, it’s not clear whether drinking such beverages affects sleep patterns, or if people who don’t sleep much are more driven to consume them. Unfortunately, the data in the current study do not allow us to draw any conclusions about cause and effect.

‘Sleeping too little and drinking too many sugary drinks have both been linked to negative metabolic health outcomes, including obesity. Given the likely two-way relationship between sugary drinks and short sleep, enhancing the duration and quality of sleep could be a useful new intervention for improving the health and well-being of people who drink a lot of sugary beverages.’

Instant analysis
The conclusion that shorter sleep deprivation leads to increased chance of diabetes is a huge leap from the actual data that is presented here.

This study was based on self-reported information in surveys regarding how much sleep the study participants were getting and what they would drink during the day.

There was a correlation between shorter sleep duration and increased sugary drink consumption, but regardless of whether the data was accurately reported by the participants, there is still the issue of correlation versus causation. Is the short sleep duration leading to increased consumption of the drinks or are caffeinated fizzy drinks leading to shorter sleep duration? Or is it a combination of both?

Without any of this data, advice to get a good night’s sleep and consume sugar in moderation would stand as it already does.
MB
Research score: 1/5