Sleep Less and You’ll Eat More
Experts have long suspected that poor sleep quality is linked to excess intake of calories. Now new research appears to confirm this relationship: The more your sleep is disrupted, the more you are likely to eat. Investigators worry that increasing problems with sleep among the public may be linked to the growing obesity epidemic among adults and children.
Of course, many factors influence how much a person eats. It’s a complex process controlled by numerous interlinked factors, including brain chemicals, circulating hormones, and even the makeup of one’s gut microbiome. Beyond these biological factors, the drive to eat is affected by environmental, cognitive, and emotional factors, too. But sleep also appears to play an important role. People who frequently complain of difficulty falling or staying asleep are more likely to make questionable choices while awake about the types and amounts of food they consume. Needless to say, the effect is not beneficial.
Let’s just say that sleep-deprived people are more likely to reach for potato chips than celery sticks. “It is well recognized that food intake is implicated in many chronic health issues including obesity, diabetes and heart disease, and diet is often a target of treatment to prevent the onset of these conditions," said researchers Alyssa Lundahl and Timothy D Nelson of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, in a press release. However, they continued: "Understanding the mechanisms linking disrupted sleep patterns to increased food intake is important for informing both prevention and treatment interventions for chronic health conditions.”
Sleep appears to impact many of the factors listed above, which, in turn, can cause a person to overeat, or choose high-calorie foods in an attempt to boost mood and energy—both of which may be flagging due to poor sleep. Dr David Marks is editor of the Journal of Health Psychology, which published the present research. “It is important for people to be aware of the findings of this study so that if they are suffering from lack of sleep, they can take greater care to consider the quality and quantity of food that they are consuming.”
How’s your sleep? Do you ever suffer from insomnia? Many Americans do. I’d be interested to hear your feedback.
Alyssa Lundahl and Timothy D Nelson. Sleep and food intake: A multisystem review of mechanisms in children and adults. Journal of Health Psychology, June 2015 DOI: 10.1177/1359105315573427