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Burning the midnight oil could be giving you the munchies the next day. A small study found that lack of sleep might trigger individuals to eat more. Twelve young men slept for only four hours on two consecutive nights. Then hormone levels and hunger ratings were recorded:
The hormone leptin, which alerts the brain that it is time to stop eating, was 18% lower.
The hormone ghrelin, which triggers hunger, was 28% higher.
The men showed a 24% increase in assessing their "hunger rating" following the sleep restriction. The rise in obesity has occurred simultaneously with the decline in time spent sleeping. Currently only about 25% of young Americans get 8 to 9 hours of sleep a night. In 1960, 41% received 8 to 9 hours of sleep nightly.
Additional studies are needed to confirm this initial study. However, consistently getting a good night’s sleep (at least 8 hours) may be one of the answers to maintaining a healthy weight. This sensible recommendation may be one of the easier lifestyle changes to make. Too busy for that much sleep? Try getting to bed an hour earlier each night when you can. Maintaining the same bedtime (and alarm time) each day (including weekends!) can also stabilize your circadian rhythm.
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. Through her company, An Ounce of Prevention, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy to apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.
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