ASPPH logo


Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UAB Researchers Explore Link between Sleep and Eating and Drinking Behavior

“The association between short sleep and obesity risk is well established. However, we explore a new pathway between short sleep and obesity: whether short sleep is linked to more time spent in secondary eating or drinking, that is, eating or drinking (beverages other than water, such as sugar-sweetened beverages) while primarily engaged in another activity, such as television watching,” writes Dr. Gabriel S. Tajeu, a post-doctoral fellow in the department of epidemiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, in a recent cross-sectional study — in collaboration with Dr. Bisakha Sen, professor in UAB’s department of health care organization and policy.

[Photo: Dr. Gabriel S. Tajeu]

Using data from 28,150 American adults (55.8 percent female) ranging in ages from 21 to 65 who participated in the American Time Use Survey (ATUS) between 2006 and 2008, the investigators assessed time spent on secondary eating and drinking as well as primary eating and drinking, with sleep duration as the principal independent variable. The authors estimated multivariate regression models after adjusting for participants’ demographic characteristics (i.e., race and gender), socioeconomic characteristics, and weekday versus weekend participation in ATUS. Compared with participants reporting having experienced normal sleep (between 7 and 8 hours), those reporting short sleep (less than 7 hours) engaged in secondary eating an additional 8.7 minutes a day as well as an additional 28.6 and 31.28 minutes daily of secondary drinking on weekdays and weekends, respectively.

In conclusion, the researchers found that “short sleep is associated with more time spent in secondary eating and, in particular, secondary drinking. This potentially suggests a pathway from short sleep to increased caloric intake in the form of beverages and distracted eating and thus potential increased obesity risk, although more research is needed.”

“New Pathways From Short Sleep to Obesity? Associations Between Short Sleep and ‘Secondary’ Eating and Drinking Behavior” was published online in November in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

Journal article: