Teenagers spend long hours on the media as they like to connect with their friends. Hectic classes and academic schedules leave less time therefore teenagers connect with their friends on social media mostly at night. Blue light from the gadget suppresses melatonin (sleep hormone), as a result of which ghrelin or hunger hormone gets activated leading to midnight snacking. According to Dr Paula Goel, Paediatrician & Adolescent Specialist, Fayth Clinic, midnight snacking refers to the habit of consuming snacks or meals late at night, typically during the hours of midnight or later. This behaviour can have various effects on a teenager's life, especially when combined with the rising consumption of fast food.
Midnight Snacking leads to a large number of health concerns including:
Disrupted Sleep Patterns: Eating heavy or high-calorie foods close to bedtime can lead to discomfort, indigestion, and disrupted sleep. This can result in poor quality sleep, fatigue, daytime somnolence and difficulty concentrating or poor concentration during the day.
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Nutritional Imbalance: Late-night snacks are nutritionally deficient and lack the necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that a balanced meal provides. Having unhealthy snacks instead of nutritious options can lead to nutritional deficiencies and potentially affect a teenager's overall health and development.
Impaired Digestion: Late-night eating may negatively impact digestion. The body's natural circadian rhythms slow down during nighttime, including digestive functions. Eating large meals or unhealthy snacks during this time can strain the digestive system, leading to issues like acid reflux, heartburn, and discomfort.
Most midnight snacks as discussed include high-caloric fast food or food high in salt, added sugar and fats. This leads to:
Unhealthy Dietary Habits: Regularly consuming fast food can contribute to an imbalanced diet, lacking in essential nutrients such as fibre, vitamins, and minerals. This can increase the risk of chronic health conditions like obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and PCOS, irritable bowel, and constipation.
Weight Gain and Obesity: The high-calorie content and large portion sizes of fast-food meals can contribute to excess calorie intake. Over time, this can lead to weight gain and obesity, which in turn increases the risk of various health issues.
Poor Nutritional Quality: Fast food often lacks the nutritional quality found in whole, unprocessed foods. It is addictive due to its high salt and added sugar content. Fast foods do not contain any fruits, vegetables, or whole grains, which are important sources of essential nutrients. Relying heavily on fast food can lead to deficiencies in vital nutrients and negatively impact overall health. Most fast food is ultra-processed and is poor in fibre leading to constipation.
Increased Risk of Health Problems: The excessive consumption of fast food has been associated with an increased risk of several health problems, including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. These health conditions can have long-term consequences for teenagers' well-being and quality of life.
Encouraging a balanced diet consisting of whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains, can help support the overall health and well-being of teenagers, improves cognitive functioning, improves their self-esteem, self-confidence and decreases depression and anxiety Hence, it’s important for teenagers to adopt healthy eating habits, including avoiding midnight snacking and minimising fast food consumption. Parents play a very important role in ensuring that healthy snacks are kept at home and easily accessible and all gadgets are switched off 1 hour before bedtime to ensure restful sleep.