Science Finds Link between Sleep Loss and Increased Appetite

Science Finds Link between Sleep Loss and Increased Appetite

A recent study shows that skipping a few hours of sleep per night can increase the risk of overeating the next day. Researchers found that sleep loss can make people consume 385 kcal more per day.

The recent research is a comprehensive review of nearly a dozen studies which involved 172 volunteers. Most of the reviewed studies included a control group in which participants got unrestricted sleep.

The Study

Researchers focused on the extra energy intake and changes in diet patterns the following day. They found sleep-deprived participants tended to eat more fats and less protein, but left carbohydrate intake unchanged.

Senior co-author of the study Dr. Gerda Pot said the research brings new evidence that sleep loss may increase the risk of obesity. Dr. Pot explained that restricted sleep disturbs the balance between energy expenditure and calorie intake, which is the main cause of obesity.

Study authors found that sleep loss can lead to a higher calorie intake, about 385 kcal per day, which represents the number of calories in nearly five slices of bread. Researchers think that if chronic sleep deprivation has a cumulative effect it can promote weight gain in the long run.

The team explained that chronic sleep loss is one of the modern society’s “diseases.” Although it is a modifiable  health risk it can fuel weight gain. Researchers called for more research into the newly-found link.

A small trial in 2013 found that sleep loss is linked to overeating because brain areas associated with reward are more sensitive to food when people don’t get enough shut-eye. As a result, sleep deprived people will seek food with a greater interest. But researchers think other explanations are possible. For instance, sleep loss could disrupt the body’s hormone regulation which could decrease the levels of satiety hormones aka leptins over hunger hormones aka ghrelins.

In the latest review, participants slept between three and a half hours to five and a half hours per night. Those in the control groups slept between seven and 12 hours. The review has some limitations as most trials monitored participants for one day to two weeks.

Sleep Loss and other Factors Tied to Overeating

Lead author Haya Al Khatib concluded that sleep deprivation may be the third factor behind diet and physical activity that promotes weight gain. Al Khatib is now conducting a follow-up study on the health benefits of sleep extension in chronically deprived sleepers.

The findings appeared this week in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Experts caution that there are other hidden reasons that can make you hungrier than usual. One surprising reason is the excessive use of air conditioning in summer months. Our bodies will try to fight off cold temperatures by adding more calories just like in winter months. Experts recommend opening the window for fresh air instead.

Also, certain medications may increase appetite. Usually, antidepressants contain chemicals with an appetite-stimulating effect. So, make sure you ask your doctor about the side-effects of a certain Rx before taking it. And the same goes for dietary supplements which may have similar effects.

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