Have you ever had a few days in a row where you slept poorly, less than six hours each night? Maybe you were partying too much, or on vacation, or, worse, stressed out with a problem at home or work.
No matter the reason, a recent research study suggests that if you get inadequate sleep, you might end up a kilogram heavier, even after just five days of poor sleep.
It might sound strange: sleep less, gain weight, but that is what multiple studies over the past decade have concluded, for both children and adults. Some public health experts believe that as more people are not getting adequate sleep, this could be one contributing factor to the obesity epidemic.
The study, led by Rachel R. Markwald at the University of Colorado and published in the March 11 journal Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences, was especially well designed.
They found 16 young, healthy adults and put them each in controlled, sealed rooms for two weeks, 24 hours per day. They measured the calories in each bit of food they ate, whether it was fat, carbohydrates or protein, and the times they chose to eat. They could eat as much as they wanted, but the researchers controlled the lights and their sleep times.
They even measured the oxygen and CO2 in the sealed individual rooms, which showed how much energy the volunteers expended.
Half the group was restricted to only 5 hours of sleep for five days, and the other half were allowed to sleep up to 9 hours. Halfway through the study, they reversed the groups. Here were the main conclusions:
1. After 5 days of deprived sleep, the average weight gain was .82 kg (1.81 pounds), but the women had more weight gain then the men.
2. During the days of sleep deprivation, the subjects burned an extra 111 calories per day, but they overate during those days, causing weight gain.
3. During sleep deprivation, they choose poorer diets, eating more carbohydrates (sugars) and fats. They also ate later at night, and poorer breakfasts.
The researchers believed these dietary changes were caused in part by disturbing the natural biological clock, which has been shown, in night workers, to lead to increased hunger. Also sleep deprivation actually changes one’s fat cells, making them less sensitive to insulin. This loss of insulin sensitivity makes fat cells grow larger, and increases the chance of both obesity and diabetes.
This study gives you one more reason to focus on getting an adequate (seven to eight hours for most people) sleep at night. Sleeping well, probably especially true for women, helps keep your weight under control!
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