Lose Weight Through Better Sleep

Sleep Less, Eat More

A new study finds that cutting back on sleep may increase how much you eat

stack of sandwiches

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Don’t skimp on your beauty sleep: Shortchanging shuteye may pack on pounds. 

People who cut their normal sleeping time by an hour and 20 minutes ate an average of 549 calories a day more than those who got a full night’s rest, according to new research from the Mayo Clinic. (Search: How many hours should I sleep a day?) The results were presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition, Physical Activity and Metabolism 2012 Scientific Sessions on Wednesday.

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In the study, researchers monitored the eating habits, activity levels, and hunger hormone levels of 17 men and women over eight nights. All the participants were able to eat as much as they wanted during the day. Half the group slept normally, while the rest slept 1 hour and 20 minutes less than they usually did.

The results: Not only did people in the sleep-deprived group consume almost 550 additional calories a day, their activity levels were nearly identical to the regular sleep group—so they didn’t burn more calories in their extra waking hours either. Surprisingly, their levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin decreased, while levels of the satiety hormone leptin increased.

Video: Secrets to a better night's sleep

“Previous work has shown that in sleep-deprived people, the hormone leptin goes down and ghrelin goes up, which is one of the reasons why they eat more,” says Andrew D. Calvin, MD, MPH, co-investigator cardiology fellow and assistant professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic. “We did not find that and actually saw a trend in the opposite direction.” Rather, the hormonal changes seem to be a response to the increased food consumption, not a cause.

“We were looking for a relatively straightforward explanation as to why sleep deprived people eat more,” says Calvin. “We hoped it would be in the two hormones, but it looks like the story is a lot more complicated than that.”

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Still, the fact remains that catching enough Z’s seems to affect our battle with the scale. “If people want to maintain a healthy weight or lose weight, they should try to avoid sleep deprivation,” says Calvin. “We don’t entirely know why lack of sleep can cause health problems, but I think that obesity can be a potential result.”

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