Does insomnia drive us to drink more soft drinks? Or is it drinking these sugary drinks that stops us sleeping? A team of American researchers has now established a clear link between these two risk factors of metabolic syndrome – a precursor to obesity and diabetes – although they have not been able to establish how they are connected in terms of cause and effect.

A team led by Professor Aric A. Prather of the University of California, San Francisco, analysed data from 18,779 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Survey gathered between 2005 and 2012. In particular, they put together information concerning each participant’s quantity and quality of sleep and their consumption of sugary drinks.

Their results show a link between lack of sleep and heavy consumption of sugary drinks. Those individuals who slept less than 5 hours a night were also those who had consumed the most soft drinks. In fact, 21% more of these. This was compared with those who slept between 7 and 8 hours a night. However, no connection was found between lack of sleep and the consumption of fruit juice, tea or sugar-free drinks.

How can this be explained? “Previous studies underline that lack of sleep increases hunger and the desire to eat sugary foods”, Professor Prather points out. It could also be that short sleepers seek out the stimulating effect of caffeinated drinks in order to stay alert during the day. But this has not been proved. It is also possible that this lack of sleep is the result of high consumption of these drinks.

Whatever the case, both lack of sleep and heavy consumption of sugary drinks have been associated with an increase in the development of metabolic syndrome and eventually cardiovascular disease. Which is why “it is important to act on these two issues by trying to improve quantity and quality of sleep and to reduce consumption of these drinks”, the authors conclude.

This post is also available in French

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