The effect of sleep restriction on snacking behaviour during a week of simulated shiftwork.
Due to irregular working hours shiftworkers experience circadian disruption and sleep restriction. There is some evidence to indicate that these factors adversely affect health through changes in snacking behaviour. The aim of this study was to investigate the impact of sleep restriction, prior wake and circadian phase on snacking behaviour during a week of simulated shiftwork. Twenty-four healthy males (age: 22.0±3.6 years, mean±SD) lived in a sleep laboratory for 12 consecutive days. Participants were assigned to one of two schedules: a moderate sleep restriction condition (n=10) equivalent to a 6-h sleep opportunity per 24h or a severe sleep restriction condition (n=14) equivalent to a 4-h sleep opportunity per 24h. In both conditions, sleep/wake episodes occurred 4h later each day to simulate a rotating shiftwork pattern. While living in the laboratory, participants were served three meals and were provided with either five (moderate sleep restriction condition) or six (severe sleep restriction condition) snack opportunities daily. Snack choice was recorded at each opportunity and assigned to a category (sweet, savoury or healthy) based on the content of the snack. Data were analysed using a Generalised Estimating Equations approach. Analyses show a significant effect of sleep restriction condition on overall and sweet snack consumption. The odds of consuming a snack were significantly greater in the severe sleep restriction condition (P<0.05) compared to the moderate sleep restriction condition. In particular, the odds of choosing a sweet snack were significantly increased in the severe sleep restriction condition (P<0.05). Shiftworkers who are severely sleep restricted may be at risk of obesity and related health disorders due to elevated snack consumption and unhealthy snack choice. To further understand the impact of sleep restriction on snacking behaviour, future studies should examine physiological, psychological and environmental motivators.