People not getting enough sleep risk poor diets and obesity, BNF survey finds

10/06/2019 - 06:00
Adults and children who don’t get enough sleep risk making less healthy food choices and an increased risk of obesity, British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) research has revealed.

It found that 43% of adults reported sleeping less than the recommended minimum of 7 hours on the previous night, and that 32% of primary and 70% of secondary school children reported sleeping less than 9 hours on the previous night, despite emerging research linking poor sleep quality to less healthy food choices, and increased risk of obesity.

The research, conducted as part of BNF Healthy Eating Week, taking place 10-14 June, surveyed 6,018 primary and secondary school students aged 7 – 16 years, and 1,576 adults from across the UK, and asked questions about their night time routines, sleep, and eating and drinking habits on the previous night.

‘Sleep Well’ is one of the focusses for this year’s BNF Healthy Eating Week, and aims to highlight why getting enough good quality sleep is a ‘key’ element of a healthy lifestyle.

Dr Lucy Chambers, senior scientist at BNF said: “BNF Healthy Eating Week promotes and celebrates healthy living by focussing on five health challenges which workplaces and schools are encouraged to take on: have breakfast, have 5 [fruit and veg] a day, drink plenty, get active, and, new for this year, sleep well.

With more and more emerging research linking lack of sleep to poor dietary choices, and the burgeoning obesity crisis in the UK, we are keen to place a new focus on sleep this year – looking into how well we’re actually all sleeping, and providing advice and resources to help improve sleeping habits.

The BNF’s Task Force report: Cardiovascular Disease: Diet, Nutrition and Emerging Risk Factors published earlier this year, highlighted that lack of sleep, and interrupted sleep, may be linked to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and hypertension.”

“The implications of a bad night’s sleep can go much further than feeling tired. Where lack of, and disturbed, sleep can lead to both adults and young people feeling grumpy and irritable, regular poor quality sleep can have a negative impact on dietary choices, including higher intakes of calories and more frequent snacking on less healthy foods.

Amongst the other key elements of BNF Healthy Eating Week are the importance of starting the day with a healthy breakfast, and drinking plenty of fluids.

The survey looked into how people start their day, and found that a quarter of secondary schools students reported not having anything to eat before school on the day of the survey, with one in ten primary school students reporting that they did not eat breakfast that day. 34% of adults did not have anything to eat before starting work on the day of the survey, although this does not take into account those who might eat breakfast while working.

Of those who did have breakfast, only a quarter of adults (24%) and 18%  of secondary school children reported including any fruit or vegetables. A quarter of secondary school students, and 14% of adults, didn’t drink anything before starting their work or school day that day.

Chambers added: “Breakfast helps to get the day off to a good start by providing the energy and nutrients the body needs for good health and it’s also a great opportunity to make a start on your 5 a day.

It is recommended that we should all be consuming around 6-8 unsweetened drinks every day to keep hydrated. In particular, it is important to encourage children to drink fluids regularly as it is not always something that they remember themselves.”

“Schools and organisations registered for BNF Healthy Eating Week receive a variety of free resources and activities to encourage employees and pupils to embrace the five health challenges.”

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