More and more people today sleep less and gain more weight than ever before. If you didn’t think there was a correlation between the two, you are wrong. Scientists confirmed that the average American eats 385 extra calories per day when they are sleep–deprived. This means that each time you deprive your body of getting enough sleep, an entire workout session goes to waste, as you add those calories the next day.
Surprising findings in the research
Together with his team, Andrew Calvin – MD, MPH and assistant professor of medicine at Mayo Clinic – conducted a research on 17 people, both men and women, ages 18 to 40 to find out how sleep deprivation affects daily calorie intake. They tracked participants’ sleeping habits to discover their average sleeping hours. Next, they placed them into two groups – one that was allowed to sleep their normal hours, and the other that slept only two-thirds of their regular sleep time. Both groups were allowed to consume any type of food in any amount they need. After eight days, the results showed that people who were deprived of their normal sleep hours were taking extra 549 calories daily, whereas the group with more sleeping hours consumed 143 fewer calories than usual.
Another surprising finding was that it is actually due to increased calorie intake that the levels of hormone leptin (which informs our brain that we are full) were higher, and ghrelin (a hormone that informs our brain that we are hungry) levels were lower than usual, and not the other way around as was considered before. Therefore, we cannot rely on hormone control to stop us from eating too many calories after less sleep, but it is something that can be regulated only by getting enough sleep. As Calvin says, “If you are looking to maintain a healthy weight or lose weight, I think getting adequate sleep may be very important.” Contrary to the popular belief, that the longer hours we stay awake, the more calories we burn, the research found no significant difference in activity expenditure between the two groups.
How the vicious circle forms
This shouldn’t come as a surprise as we are all familiar with feeling drowsy and irritated after not getting a good night’s sleep. It is then no wonder that we tend to crave more fatty and sugary meals than usual as they provide artificial comfort and soothe us at least for some time. This leaves us feeling even more tired and lazy, resulting in not getting activity needed for burning extra calories. Hence, we gain weight in time, not to mention the amount of stress we are causing to ourselves, as we don’t allow our body and mind to rest and rejuvenate properly during sleep.
Most common factors causing sleep deprivation include stress, worry and busy lifestyle. It can easily turn into a vicious cycle as we tend to feel more stressed and worried and our productivity worsens due to lack of sleep. Hours of sleep people need for proper rest wary from person to person, but it is important for everyone to respect their bodies’ needs in order to remain healthy, productive and happy.
What you should do to stop gaining weight from lack of sleep
Most people find it harmless at first to cut down on their sleep when making progress in their career but are very soon faced with the negative consequences of sleep deprivation. They tend to feel tired more often and are left with fewer productive hours of work. In order to avoid such struggle, it is highly recommended to finish all our tasks at work, or a study, strictly during working hours. Avoid consuming caffeine at least five hours prior to sleep as it robs you of quality sleep you need for next day’s professional challenges. Also, a great way to distract your mind from thinking about work is to get a white noise sound device, as it blocks out the distracting noise and provides soothing and relaxing sounds instead.
To prevent losing sleep due to worry, you should start practicing relaxing exercises before sleep. Deep breathing exercises such as yoga or meditation are extremely helpful as deep breathing provides enough oxygen, which clears our mind and calms our body.