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Sleeping vs Snacking: How Lack of Sleep Affects Your Waistline

You know the feeling. That craving right before you go to bed, usually for leftover takeout or some kind of cheesy, salty snack. If you’re staying up late at night, chances are you’re finding yourself with a hankering for some midnight munchies.

While conducting an in-laboratory study, University of Pennsylvania researchers discovered that those who were kept from sleeping more than four hours a night favored eating more calories than those who could sleep 10 hours each night. This study was published in the journal SLEEP, and was conducted over a period of five consecutive nights, although some participants spent 18 days in a row at the research lab. In this study, 225 healthy people were allowed to sleep under certain restrictions: Some could sleep the full 10 hours, while others took on sleep deprivation. While meals were given throughout the day, snacks were readily available, and no exercise was allowed.

What researchers found was somewhat surprising. Although sleep deprivation and weight gain have been linked together for some time, this particular sleep study found significant weight changes in the participants. Due to an increased consumption of calories, sleep deprived participants took in more calories and more calories from fat. They also were found to have gained about two pounds in five nights, while those who had a full night’s sleep gained only a quarter pound.

Another sleep study at the University of Colorado Denver’s Anschutz Medical Campus also found a similar trend: Sleep deprived participants seemed to eat heavier evening snacks. According to the Endocrine Society, “sleep deprivation seems to prompt higher levels of a particular molecule in the blood -- one that is responsible for the feelings of reward and enjoyment that come from eating.”

If you’re consuming a proper amount of calories during the day and following that with a good night’s sleep, you’re already on the right track. Eating more calories than you burn will undoubtedly cause the risk of weight gain, and it can be a little too easy to give in to those late night cravings. So next time you’re heading to the fridge for your nightly snack, maybe consider getting some shut-eye instead. Your waistline just might thank you for it. 


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