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The Sleep and Diet Connection

You always feel sleepy at the start of your workday. To combat this you get a sugary caffeinated concoction and grab a doughnut for that quick shot of energy. This is your typical morning routine. The people at the local coffee shop know you by name and know your “usual” order. A morning routine like this can do major damage to your waistline. Read more to understand the connection between diet and sleep:

The Sleep and Diet Connection

Did you know that those who sleep less than 5 to 6 hours a night are at a much higher risk for weight gain? This unwanted weight can be an average of an extra 1-2 pounds in the course of one week! As the weeks go by that 1-2 pounds builds up to 10 and then 20 pounds. Why is this? Let’s take a look at how lack of sleep impacts your hormones which in turn alters your food choices.

Sleep Less, Grow Hungrier

If you are sleep-deprived, your hormone levels rise so that you crave more food. This is influenced by hormones such as ghrelin and leptin. Basically, leptin says “I feel pretty full, I’ll put the fork down now” while ghrelin says “I’m still hungry, we should have went with the Supersized extra value meal! And hey, what’s for dessert?!” With sleep deprivation, there is increased levels of ghrelin and reduced levels of leptin. As a result, your body boosts your appetite and tells you to keep eating. Gherlin, greatly outnumbering leptin, generally wins this battle in those who are sleep deprived.

Research also showed that those who are sleep deprived are more likely to consume carbohydrates, which can be very calorie dense given they can be eaten in large quantities without feeling full. With accumulated sleep debt fat cells also lose their sensitivity to insulin, which is a precursor to both obesity and diabetes.

Sleep Less, Eat More

Less time sleeping means the more time you have to eat. Studies show that those who are sleep deprived do more nighttime snacking than those getting a substantial 7-8 hours of sleep. They also tend to eat a smaller breakfast if they eat one at all. On average they eat anywhere from 260-330 extra calories each day. A lack of sleep can also make you more likely to skip any sort of physical activity – even something as low key as a nice walk. A 15 minute walk burns roughly 100 calories.

Pyrrhic Victory: You Burn more Calories with Less Sleep

Research shows that those who skimp on sleep do burn more calories overnight than those who get adequate sleep. The amount of calories burned averages out to an extra 111 calories burned. However that gain in calories burned is greatly offset by all of the other aspects of poor sleep habits that result in weight gain. A good analogy would be to run a marathon and pass up consuming water or sports drink in the early miles of the race in order to save yourself the few seconds it would take to slow down to grab a cup from the aid stations.  In the later stages of the race dehydration and depleted carbohydrate stores cost you minutes and trash your finish time. As demonstrated in the section above the simple math shows you may burn an extra 111 calories by burning the midnight oil (calories out), however the calories consumed (calories in) will be double or triple the amount you burned. It’s a losing proposition.

So the next time you schedule your day, ask yourself “how much sleep do I really need?” Thinking you can fully function with only five hours of sleep can harm your body in the long run.

Written by Sera Choi

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