Forget beauty sleep, we’re talking about diet sleep.
New research from the University of Pennsylvania found that sleep restriction could lead to significant weight gain. While this isn’t exactly news to us, this recent study provides further evidence that sleep has a direct impact on our waistline and its findings offer some valuable lessons.
1) The more time you spend awake, the more likely you are to overeat and gain weight
It’s really that simple. The study found that those who stayed up until the wee hours of the morning gained nearly two more pounds than those who turned in at 10 pm. Resist temptation by hitting the hay early and you’ll wake up happier and lighter in the morning.
2) Late-night snacks tend to be diet busters
For whatever reason, our diet seems to plummet in both quantity and quality late at night. On days with a delayed bedtime, sleep-restricted subjects ate an average of 553 more calories between 10pm-4am, meaning their weight gain was exclusively due to late-night munching. Equally alarming, they ate significantly more calories from fat during those late hours than any other part of the day.
If going to sleep earlier isn’t an option and you do require a little extra fuel, make sure it is low in calories and fat. We’ve listed some diet-forgiving snacks here.
3) Staying up late causes mixed hunger signals
Losing sleep increases your risk of gaining weight in more ways than one. While the exact mechanisms are not fully understood, researchers believe that a lack of sleep trips up hormones regulating our hunger and fullness cues, making it even harder to know when to start and stop eating.
This latest study found that sleep-restricted participants ate more frequently without adjusting the size of their meals to compensate for the extra calories. This suggests that if you stay up late and don’t catch enough zzz’s, the signals cuing you to eat (rather than those telling you to stop) are the most affected. So if you find yourself on an all-night bender, keep this Hunger Scale nearby to help you know when you should put the fork down.
*About the author: Caryn Huneke is a Dietetic Intern and graduate student in the Nutrition Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University.