Less Sleep Makes You Eat, Which Makes You Overweight

Recent research that was published on June 26, in the journal Sleep confirms that the later you stay up, the more sleep you lose, which leads you to eat more calories, then you gain more weight.

Sleep researchers from the Sleep and Chronobiology Lab at the Perelman School of Medicine at University of Pennsylvania, found that when people went to bed at 4 a.m. and woke up four hours later, they consumed about 550 calories after 11 p.m., which is far more than what their bodies needed.  Most of those 550 calories came from fat, which brings on weight gain on an average of 2 pounds after five straight nights of little sleep.  This study was significant because it studied 225 people and the research took place in a lab, leaving scientists able to control it.

Andrea Spaeth, a doctoral candidate and the study’s lead author said that participants in the study could basically eat whenever and as much as they wanted.  The meal sizes did not differ from the baseline days and the experimental days or between the sleep-deprived group and a small control group.  Spaeth explained that the sleep deprived group at more times through the day which shifted their calorie intake toward late night and the next morning they would eat less.

Kenneth Wright, associate professor in the department of integrative biology and the director of the Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory at the University of Colorado mentions that weight gain with sleep loss is still somewhat unclear.  He explained that in an experiment that was released earlier this year, his lab had found important hormones that regulate food intake, like gherlin and leptin, were within normal levels in sleep deprived people, but they would still eat more.

He mentioned, it could be that control centers of the brain, such as willpower, are weakened, causing us to look for rewarding and pleasurable food, which could be why we tend to eat junk food late at night.  We are simply looking for comfort, but there are many other factors at work as well.

“We have biological mechanisms to prompt us to consume more energy” when we are awake,

Spaeth mentioned.  We no longer have to hunt down anything for food; all we have to do is open the fridge when we are hungry.  Spaeth also mentions, “what we’re doing is really overcompensating for small increases in energy requirements.”  This explains why shift work can be so harmful to health, Wright explains.  “Shift work goes against the fundamental biological clock in our brain.  We evolved to be awake during the day when we are supposed to be physically active and consuming food.  When we are awake at night, the circadian clock does not adapt.  There are consequences to that…That’s why shift workers are at greater risk for many health problems we see in modern society.”  Shift work is not going to go away any time soon.  Wright said that looking for ways to compensate for this circadian havoc is an important goal of chronobiological research.

In reference to The Later You Stay Up, The More You Eat, Study Shows