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There are two things that many Americans fail at — one is getting enough sleep, and the second is eating a sensible diet. #FAIL. Whose fault is it? Our own. We really have no one else to blame but ourselves for sleep deprivation and a poor diet.
Unfortunately, one leads us down the rabbit hole to the other. Not getting enough sleep at night doesn't allow you to function efficiently the following morning. You wake up to an alarm that you would love to chuck across the room as if you never heard it and go back to sleep. We've all been there. But repetitive nights of poor sleep can have some negative effects on your overall health — more specifically, your weight.
Those who don't get enough sleep each night have been shown to over-eat the following day. This can be due to several reasons. If you don't sleep well at night and aren't getting the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep, you generally wake up tired and groggy. What do most American's reach for? A sugar-filled beverage such as coffee with their favorite sweeteners and creamers, a soda, or an energy drink.
Those caffeinated beverages are great while they work, but once the caffeine wears off, you're back to square one. So, grab another! Right? That's, unfortunately, what happens. And so, the cycle continues of the up and down energy levels. Before you know it, you took in several hundred calories without even realizing it. All of those extra calories add up over the course of a week.
Something else to consider is if you are sensitive to caffeine or drink it all day long, which can negatively affect your sleep patterns. If you drink a beverage that contains a stimulant too late in the afternoon or evening, that alone could keep you up at night. For that reason, it's important to know your limit on caffeine and at what time of day you need to shut it down so you can get a good night's sleep.
One study mentioned that, on average, most sleep-deprived individuals who only get between three and five hours of sleep a night take in around 385 extra calories each day when compared to a day where they had a good night's sleep. Let's just do some quick math here and multiply that number by seven days in a week, and you get 2,695 calories — which equates to a little over ¾ of a pound in one week. Add that number up over a month, and you're looking at around a three-pound increase in your weight. Go even further than look at it over the course of a year, and you're jacking your weight up by about 40 pounds! Sleep is extremely important. Don't take it for granted. Your health depends on your body being able to rest and recover properly.
A separate study looking at sleep deprivation found that there seems to be a greater activation in certain areas of the brain that causes a sense of reward when individuals are exposed to food following a night of poor sleep. This could help explain why many individuals over-eat following a night where they don't sleep well. Another theory from the study is that due to the disruption of sleep, the body's internal clock seems to be affected, whereas the body produces less leptin and more ghrelin. Leptin is a hormone that creates the sensation of satiety and fullness. On the other hand, Ghrelin is a hormone that has the opposite effect and creates a sense of hunger, causing people to go in search of food.
One researcher who looked at the effects of sleep deprivation said, "The main cause of obesity is an imbalance between calorie intake and expenditure, and this study adds to accumulating evidence that sleep deprivation could contribute to this imbalance. So, there may be some truth in the saying 'early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy and wise.' Reduced sleep is one of the most common and potentially modifiable health risks in today's society, in which chronic sleep loss is becoming more common. More research is needed to investigate the importance of long-term, partial sleep deprivation as a risk factor for obesity and whether sleep extension could play a role in obesity prevention."
Another researcher mentioned, "Our results highlight sleep as a potential third factor, in addition to diet and exercise, to target weight gain more effectively. We are currently conducting a randomized controlled trial in habitually short sleepers to explore the effects of sleep extension on indicators of weight gain."
One thing that's needed is more studies looking at the long-term effects of sleep deprivation when it comes to appetite and over-eating the following day. Thus far, most of the studies conducted have been completed in a controlled laboratory setting and only for upwards of two weeks. Is there a correlation between sleep deprivation and the possibility of someone becoming obese because of it? It sure seems like a possibility if, as mentioned above, someone can put on upwards of 40 pounds or more by over-eating following a poor night's sleep.
Sleep is something we need to make time for. Everyone is busy, and sleep seems to be something people cut out to complete more tasks during the day. Now there are medical reasons why people can't sleep at night, and for those, a doctor's care is needed. But if timing is the issue, that's something each individual needs to figure out. Just like making time for your workout each day, you need to make sure you're in bed at a specific time each night in order to get the proper rest your body needs.
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Materials provided by King's College London
H K Al Khatib, S V Harding, J Darzi, G K Pot. The effects of partial sleep deprivation on energy balance: a systematic review and meta-analysis. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2016; DOI: 10.1038/ejcn.2016.201