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Does sleep loss give me the munchies, or do I just get high? (4/1/11)

April 1, 2011

How to Gain Weight Without Even Trying

Sleep less, weigh more.  Even if might feel temporarily  high from staying up all night, keep staying up and you’re going to put on weight.


Columbia University researchers rigidly controlled the life of 13 men and 13 women for six days.  One group slept 8 hours, the other 4 hours.  They had access to the same foods at the same times.

When sleeping four hours a night, women added 329 calories a day.  Men added 263 calories.

The women ate more fatty, comfort foods like ice cream. The men ate pretty much the same things, just more of them.

Both groups really wanted to eat.

Averaging 300 extra calories a day is a lot.  Eating that much more each day will rapidly increase people’s weight.

Ask shift workers.  They often gain weight quickly when working night or swing shifts.

Why Does Sleep Loss Lead to Weight Gain?

There are many reasons why sleep loss produces weight gain, as we are simply not adapted for prolonged sleep loss.

Time rules life.  People are meant to sleep at night, not work and eat.

Work at Surrey University shows night eating quickly leads to greater glucose and body fat blood levels.

Many studies, particularly those done by Eve van Cauter at the University of Chicago and collaborators, explain in part why – hormone levels go haywire with partial sleep deprivation.  Most people look pre-diabetic, showing rapidly appearing insulin resistance.  And ghrelin-leptin levels, a kind of yin-yang hormone combination that help control hunger and satiety, go completely out of whack with relatively minor sleep deprivation.

Older studies show that people eating at night gain more weight than if they eat the same foods in the same amount  in the morning.

What Can People Do to Prevent Weight Gain from Sleep Loss?

Recognize rest is regeneration.  Your body regenerates during rest, of which sleep is a big part –especially in time.  You need sleep to learn; remember; be productive; prevent heart disease; prevent stroke; improve mood; and escape certain tumors.

Controlling weight is just a bonus among these benefits.   Sleep need will vary across the population, but most adults need 7-8 hours sleep every night.

That’s sleep – not just hours in bed.  Most people sleep perhaps 90% of their time in bed, if they’re good adult sleepers.

Americans overestimate their sleep, but most adults are now coming down to taking  6.5-6.75 hours of time for sleep – another reason for our overweight epidemic.

Yet there is a minor plus side to sleep deprivation.

The Young and the Restless – Sleeplessness and Euphoria

Professor Matthew Walker at UC Berkeley has been real busy. Recently he looked at an old conundrum      – why depressed people feel better after being kept up, sleepless, at night.

The antidepressant effect for these patients is often quite pronounced.  Unfortunately, it disappears as soon as people get the chance to sleep.

So Walker looked at normal, young students.  His findings were not surprising – kids kept up at night often experience a mild euphoria.  This may help to explain why some internet and video gamers can’t quit playing, even when spending days and nights in front of their monitors (see my “Dying to win – internet gaming and sleeplessness” of March 1st in the blog archive).

More interestingly,  the euphoria he saw fit the normal patterns of brain activation. Night-time sleep loss really revved up the reward areas of the brain seen in MRI scans.

Unfortunately, all the negative effects of sleep loss apply whenever people are up through the night – including poor decision making and a tendency towards risky behavior.

Sleeplessness, Weight, and Mood

So there are reasons some of us like to stay up at night.  For a while, we feel pretty good.

But then we pay the price.  Rest is regeneration, and without enough of it, your body cannot do what it’s meant to do – healthily rebuild itself.

The programming goes awry.  Hormones, neurotransmitter levels, normal system communications don’t work right.

And then we become tired, slow, fatigued, and sleepy.  Not to mention prone to many significant illnesses.

Sleep less, weigh more.  Rest less, produce less.  Rest less and you increase your chances of getting depressed.

Some things, like rest,  you just need.
Rest, sleep, Sarasota Sleep Doctor, well-being, regeneration, longevity, body clocks, insomnia, sleep disorders, the rest doctor, matthew edlund, the power of rest, the body clock, psychology today, huffington post, redbook, longboat key news

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 24, 2013 7:42 AM

    Real nice layout and also wonderful content material, hardly anything else we demand: D.

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