“Pillow problem” skyrockets sugar intake up to 4.5 pounds?!

If yesterday’s conversation taught us anything, it’s that bad habits affect kids just as much as they do adults.  

Poor dietary choices is no exception. But neither is poor sleep hygiene. Mix the two together, and a dangerous snowball effect emerges. 

In fact, new research reveals that this “pillow problem” can lead to consuming an extra 4.5 extra pounds of sugar per year. 

The worst part? (And if you have teenaged grandkids, you’ll definitely want to keep reading…)  

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, nearly 75 percent of high school students fall into this category. 

Here’s everything you need to know… 

A dangerous snowball effect 

In short, clocking fewer than the recommended eight to 10 hours of sleep a night could lead to a shocking 4.5 pounds extra of sugar each year. 

New research published in the journal SLEEP looked at the sleeping and eating habits of nearly 100 teens under two different conditions: One where they spent only 6.5 hours in bed each night for a week, and one where they got the recommended 9.5 hours. 

Researchers also measured the teens’ calorie intake, the nutritional content of their food, the types of food eaten, and the overall glycemic load (the amount of carbohydrates in a food and how it affects blood sugar) of their diet. 

Ultimately, sleep-deprived teens didn’t necessarily eat more food—they just ate more junk food.  

More specifically, results showed that short sleep periods led the teens to eat more foods late at night that would spike their blood sugar. They also ate fewer fruits and vegetables. 

That finding makes sense. After all, most adults reach for sugar and carbs to give them a quick burst of energy when they’re tired, too.  

But of course, that’s a mistake for anyone… of any age—because those poor choices add up over time.  

In fact, this study found that sleep-deprived teens consumed 12 extra grams of sugar in a day.  

If you do the math, assuming there are 180 nights in a school year, those 12 extra grams of sugar a day would add up to more than 4.5 extra pounds of sugar per year.  

And we wonder why there’s a childhood obesity epidemic 

Proper sleep is crucial to good health 

As I talked about yesterday, kids aren’t born knowing how to become healthy adults—they need to be taught. WE need to teach them.  

Children are so busy with rigorous academics and a slew of extracurricular activities that, especially when you consider the early school day, it’s not hard to see how easily sleep can be disrupted.  

Just as kids learn to live off of junk food, they also learn to sleep less in order to accommodate their busy schedule. (Yet another habit that lasts well into adulthood.) The irony being that proper sleep will help them accomplish their goals for the day more efficiently.  

And that’s just for starters. Sleep is vital for many different reasons. But it’s particularly critical for teenagers, whose brains and bodies are experiencing significant development and growth, much of which takes place overnight, during sleep 

Lack of sleep comes with plenty of consequences: higher risk of mental illness, poor school performance, and behavior problems, to name a few. Plus, as this latest research shows, it also rockets the risk of weight gain and metabolic disease. 

So do your grandchildren a favor: Make sure they know how important it is to rest—especially in order to accommodate a busy schedule.  

I always recommend aiming for at least seven to nine hours of quality shuteye each night. To help get a good night’s sleep, invest in room darkening shades, earplugs, and an eye-mask… and be conscious of blue light before bedtime.  

For additional support, check out my Perfect Sleep Protocol. This innovative, online learning tool outlines an easy, drug-free plan to enjoy quality sleep night-after-night, without relying on dangerous sleep aids. 


“Teens not getting enough sleep may consume 4.5 extra pounds of sugar during a school year.” Science Daily, 01/07/2022. (sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/01/220107084431.htm)