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Poor sleep leads to increased calorie consumption

Tuesday 1st March 2016
People who sleep badly are more likely to consume an increased number of calories, a new study shows.
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Dieticians may wish to ask their patients how much sleep they tend to get at night to gain a better understanding of why they are putting weight on.

According to a new study from doctors at the University of Chicago, people who sleep badly are more likely to consume an increased number of calories when they are awake, putting them at a greater risk of becoming overweight or obese.

The researchers recruited 14 men and women for their investigation, requiring them to spend two periods of four nights at a specially-designed sleep centre. During one of the stays, they were allowed 8.5 hours sleep each night, but just 4.5 hours during the second stay.

Participants' were each fed the same meals while at the centre, with the doctors monitoring their hormone levels every day, finding that they acted as expected following a normal nights' sleep.

However, after being sleep deprived for several days, the volunteers were presented with a variety of snacks. Due to having very little sleep, their willpower was affected, making them more likely to consume additional calories outside of their normal diet plan, consequently resulting in them putting on weight.

On average, they selected foods with 50 per cent more calories and twice the amount of fat than they were used to eating, demonstrating how a lack of sleep can adversely affect the diet.

Eric Hanlon, lead author of the study, explained: "If you have a Snickers bar and you've had enough sleep, you can control your natural response. But if you're sleep deprived, your hedonic drive for certain foods gets stronger, and your ability to resist them may be impaired, so you are more likely to eat it. Do that again and again, and you pack on the pounds."

What's more, previous studies have shown that the body is more likely to produce higher levels of the so-called hunger hormone ghrelin following poor sleep, alongside lower levels of leptin, which is the hormone that controls the appetite. Therefore, this provides an explanation as to why the study produced these results.

Written by Martin Lambert

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