7-9 hours of sleep a night, that is what we should all be striving for. Sleep rejuvenates us, helps us form memories, keeps us healthy, and helps us stay sharp. Sleep deprivation, anything less than 7 hours a night, occurs in about 30% of adults. Sleep deprived individuals report difficulty concentrating, remembering things, driving, and performing work. Sleep deprivation has been linked to increased risk of accidents at work and in the car, diabetes, increased blood pressure, and memory loss. Evidence from animal models and human clinical trials suggests that sleep deprivation can also lead to weight gain or excessive calorie intake. Still unknown is how much of an effect sleep deprivation has on calorie intake in people. This is where a recent paper published by a group from London hopes to enlighten us.
The study, a meta-analysis, combined the results from 11 studies on sleep deprivation and calorie intake or weight gain. This included data on 172 individuals over the age of 18 enrolled in studies on the effects of sleep deprivation. Patients had their calorie intake, calorie expenditure, and metabolic rate measured and then were randomized into nights with 8+ hours of sleep, or nights with less than 7 ours of sleep (depending on the study). The researchers found that people who were partially sleep deprived (3-6 hours of sleep per night) had a greater calorie intake than those who got the recommended amount of sleep per night. Partial sleep deprivation resulted in an extra 385 kcal being consumed per day, about 4 extra pieces of bread a day or 2 and ¾ cans of coke per day. The researchers found that this increase in calorie intake was not accounted for by an increase in calorie expenditure or increased metabolic rate. That is to say, the people who had more calories per day weren’t doing so because they were exercising more.
For people who are trying to lose weight or are struggling with their weight, 385 calories a day can be the difference between meeting your weight goals and gaining weight. In our busy lives we are often going to bed late and this could be contributing to the rising obesity epidemic. It is important to get a good nights sleep in order to maintain a healthy mind and body. This includes: going to bed and rising at a similar time each day, limiting exposure to stimulants like tea and coffee in the hours before bed, limiting use of phones/computers/TV before bed, and practicing relaxation techniques to relieve stress before bed.
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