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Could sugary drinks be affecting our sleep?

We’ve all heard about the effect of sugary drinks on our diet, our health and our teeth, but now a group of researchers from San Francisco believe that these drinks also have the ability to affect the length of time that we sleep. According to the results of their study carried out at UC San Francisco, people who get five or fewer hours of sleep per night are also likely to drink a greater number of sugary caffeinated beverages, than those who sleep for longer. This includes both soft drinks and energy drinks.

The scientists studied the sleep habits and consumption of sugary drinks of over 18,000 people who were taking part in the National Health and Nutrition Survey. In addition to reporting their beverage intake (including both caffeinated and non-caffeinated drinks and water), the participants were questioned about how many hours they slept during their working week. From their analysis, the research team discovered that the people who regularly slept for fewer than five hours per day, also consumed 21% more caffeinated, sugary drinks, than the people who slept between seven and eight hours per night. For people who managed six hours of sleep, their consumption of sugary drinks was 11% higher than the longer sleepers. However, the team were unable to find an association between the hours slept and the consumption of juice, tea or diet drinks.

At the moment, it’s not clear whether it’s the drinking of the sugary drinks that causes the reduction in sleep, or whether these people consume more sugar and caffeine to counteract sleep deprivation. From their findings, the team has suggested that drinking such drinks to help stay awake and sleeping fewer hours reinforce one another. This in turn, makes it harder for those people to cut out the habit. However, the researchers also believe that if they can find a way to improve the sleeping habits of these people, it may help them to break the cycle and reduce their intake of sugar.

Current research into the consumption of sugary drinks has suggested that there’s a link between the amount of drinks consumed and metabolic syndrome, which includes a number of conditions which can ultimately result in obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, sleep deprivation is also associated with a higher risk of the condition. As the team have established a connection between sugary drinks consumption and poor sleep, they believe that finding ways to improve the duration and quality of sleep could prove a useful way to improve the health and well-being of people who consume large quantities of these drinks.

The study appeared in the online edition of Sleep Health.

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