The stress of taking 18 hours is piling up and somehow you need to fit in time for your new job too. Things are becoming overwhelming. You pass a fast food joint and can’t pass up the opportunity to get a large fry and shake. After all, you deserve it right?
Students know they should eat healthier in order to maintain fitness, but this is easier said than done. When stress is piling on, the easiest thing to do is make unhealthy choices.
A new study conducted by Auburn’s Raymond J. Harbert College of Business, Michigan State University, The University of Illinois, The University of Florida and China’s Sun Yat-sen University looks to understand how stress, sleep and diet choices are all interconnected.
This research looked at work place stress, such as such as an angry boss, irate customers or chasing deadlines.
The study was conducted in China on a group of 235 middle class workers, 125 from information technology and 110 in customer service.
Researchers discovered the more sleep you get, the fewer unhealthy choices you’ll make. With eight hours of sleep under your belt, you are much less likely to reach for a doughnut over an apple, since stress will not affect you as much.
Sleep can actually provide a layer of defense between stress from work or classes and unhealthy eating choices.
One of the major researchers on this study was Jaclyn Koopman with the Auburn University Raymond J College of Business, who became involved in the fall of 2016.
“Organizations may simply initiate health and wellness programs that bring awareness to healthy eating and the impact of stress on eating behaviors," Koopman said.
When comparing students versus full time workers, Koopman said, “College students also experience daily stressors or class demands, such as presentations, tests, paper deadlines, and job/internship interviews. Thus, students may find that, much like we found with the employees in our study, they eat more junk food on days when they experience these stressors.”
"Students could have quick, healthy food options available during stressful weeks of the semester. Another way to prevent poor eating after a stressful day is to ensure that they get plenty of sleep leading up to that day,” Koopman said.
College students should be getting between seven to eight hours of sleep, however most only receive between four to six.
“Sleep seems to provide energy that helps people overcome stress-induced eating,” Koopman said.
Students should be using their time to plan ahead early in the semester for stressful weeks or deadlines. If they do so, Koopman said, then they can better prepare for how they will receive a full night’s sleep.