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Sleep Deprivation May Promote Obesity

By Megan Tempest in Food on May 4, 2010 4:20PM

Last year researchers at University of Chicago put this theory to the test on eleven healthy men and women. Results showed their subjects consumed more calories after sleeping 5 1/2 hours than they did after sleeping 8 1/2. Another study published in 2005 found that sleeping less than 7 hours per night puts us at greater risk for becoming overweight, and that risk increases with each hour of sleep lost.

In March, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published results of a new study that analyzed healthy men and assessed their food intake for 48 hours. One one night the men slept 8 hours, on the the other they slept 4 hours. The researchers tracked feelings of hunger, perceived pleasantness of the foods, desire to eat some foods, and sensation of sleepiness. After only 4 hours of sleep, the men consumed an average of 500 more calories than they did when they had 8 hours of shut-eye. Is that significant? It is if you consider that consuming an excess of 500 calories per day adds up to 4 pounds of weight gain in one month.

What is the link between sleep-deprivation and overeating? It appears that lack of sleep may alter our hormonal secretions. Some research has shown that when the body is deprived of adequate rest it produces more of the hormone grehlin, which stimulates our appetite, and simultaneously decreases leptin production, the hormone that tells our brain we are full.