“The mechanisms relating short sleep duration to the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and energy drinks are not well understood, probably because the literature on this topic is in its infancy,” the researchers wrote in their report, published in the journal Nutrition.
Previous studies suggest short sleep duration is related to daytime sleepiness and poor daytime functioning, which often prompts one to consume sugar-sweetened beverages or energy drinks.
This in turn may affect short sleep duration further, they argued, because of the “stimulating properties of sugar and caffeine, which, when consumed near bedtime, may affect sleep.”
The researchers were affiliated with the University of Ottawa, the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research, the University of Toronto, and the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute.
They used data from the 2015 cycle of the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey, a province-wide periodical cross-sectional school-based survey of students in grades 7 through 12 which has been conducted every two years since 1977.
Students were asked how often they had drunk a can, bottle or glass of sweetened soda, sports drink (such as Gatorade), or pre-sweetened tea or coffee in the last seven days. Separately, students were surveyed on their energy drink consumption patterns.
Then students were asked how many hours of sleep on an average school night they usually get. Response options ranged from four hours or less to 10 or more hours.
A majority of students, at 81.4%, said they consumed sugar-sweetened beverages in the past seven days, while only 12% of students reported consuming energy drinks in the same time period.
Students who met physical activity recommendations were more likely to consume energy drinks.
Moreover, the researchers found that respondents with shorter sleep durations were more likely to be consumers of sugar-sweetened beverages and energy drinks.
“Although boys were more likely than girls to consume sugar-sweetened beverages and energy drinks, the relationship between sleep duration with consumption of these drinks did not differ by sex,” they added.
Limitations of the study, including the self-reporting nature of the surveys and the non-completion rate due to absenteeism, may have biased the sample. Moreover, the cross-sectional nature of the study means no causal relationship can be established between the beverage consumption and sleep duration.
But the researchers nonetheless argued that the outcomes, which revealed a high number of students not meeting sleep length recommendations, supports the need for public health guidelines recommending that adolescents have adequate sleep duration.
“Given that behaviors and food preferences are often established during adolescence and can be difficult to modify later in life, it is important to acquire knowledge about whether meeting the sleep duration recommendations would help reduce, at least in part, consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and energy drinks among adolescents,” they added.
Published online ahead of print, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nut.2017.11.013
"Sleep duration and consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and energy drinks among adolescents"
Authors: Sampasa-Kanyinga, H., et al