How many hours of sleep do you get each night? If you’re a night owl, then you’re probably not getting as much sleep as your body needs. Unfortunately, this doesn’t only lead to horrific eye bags in the morning; it can also be the reason why you’re overeating. According to a study presented at the the American Heart Association’s annual Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism conference, some of the roots of overeating can be traced to sleep deprivation.
In an attempt to prove that a connection exists, researchers gathered 17 healthy but not-so-active men and women to participate in an 11-day trial. The first three days served as a baseline period; the volunteers simply tried to act as normally as they could inside the facility while researchers recorded their every move. After the baseline period, the participants were divided into two groups. One group was tasked to wake up or sleep whenever they wanted, while the other group was purposefully woken up after only two-thirds of the members’ usual sleep.
Results? Those who were sleep-deprived ate more, increasing their usual calorie-intake by 549 calories. However, those who were allowed to sleep and wake up whenever they pleased continued on as they did before. According to the researchers, sleeping less over a long period will definitely increase the chances of overeating.
What was unclear was how lack of sleep could contribute to overeating in the first place. At first, researchers thought that it had something to do with the appetite-suppressing hormone leptin, which is released by fat cells at night. Upon closer inspection, however, researchers found out that those who didn’t get enough sleep actually had more leptin inside their bodies. Another theory was that the participants who didn’t get enough sleep tended to take more midnight snacks. Instead of burning the calories off in sleep, their bodies ended up storing them as fat.
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(Photo by zubrow via Flickr Creative Commons)