Sleep deprivation makes sweets more appealing

Sweets and aging

The teenage years are a beast. Teenagers are neither children nor adults. They’re transitioning from playing towards making important life decisions. Lots of decisions. About friends. Sex. Food. Studying. Drugs.

In this article, we’ll stick to the decisions relating to healthy food choices.

The teenage years are also marked by lack of sleep – which a new study1 shows increases cravings for sweets or dessert foods. The study is from an open access article, so go here if you want to read it! If not, here are the cliff notes.

In the study, teenagers either had 6.5 or 10 hours of sleep for five straight days. Six and a half hours of sleep is considered to be sleep restricted while 10 hours is healthy sleep. On the sixth day, the teenagers saw photos of sweets (e.g., ice cream, candy) and non-sweets (e.g., fruits, vegetables, meat) and rated how appetizing each one was. The picture ratings ranged from 1-4 (“gross,” “OK,” “good”, or “delicious”). The participants also listed all that they had eaten the previous day.

Sweets were more appealing after the kids were sleep deprived. They also reported 110% more servings of sweets when they had restricted than healthy sleep. That’s twice as many sweets!

These results suggest that sleep is a silent manipulator. It affects food choices and consequently weight and chronic illnesses in teenagers. Be aware. Awareness is the first step to healthier choices – well awareness and sleep.



1 Simon, S. L., Field, J., Miller, L. E.,  DiFrancesco, & M., Beebe2, D.W. (2015). Sweet/dessert foods are more appealing to adolescents after sleep restriction, PLOS ONE, 10, 1-8.

Image Attribution

Sprinkles by manda_wong CC by 2.0