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Why A Lack Of Sleep Causes Weight Gain


If you’re wondering why it’s difficult to lose weight, your shortened sleep schedule may have something to do with it. Although many truck drivers don’t have much of a choice when it comes to their sleep schedule, squeezing in a few hours of shut eye may help you finally drop some of those unwanted pounds.

Here are some scientifically tested reasons why if you’re a “short sleeper” (you only sleep 5 to 6 hours or less a night), it could be stalling your ability to lose weight and keep it off:

You Eat More

This may be the most obvious connection between sleep and weight-loss: when you’re up late at night, or just awake for more hours of the day, you’re going to eat more food.

In research presented by the American Heart Association’s 2011 Scientific Sessions, men who got only 4 hours of sleep at night ate an additional 263 calories than when they slept 9 hours (women ate 329 more).

In another study done by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, participants traded off sleeping 5.5 hours a night and 8.5 hours a night for two sessions of 14 overnight stays. When the subjects were sleep deprived, they increased their nighttime snacking and were more likely to choose high-carb snacks.

You Have Less Energy To Burn Calories 

Studies now show that the less you sleep, the less energy you have to burn calories.

In a recent study in Germany at the University of Lubeck, researchers had a group of men sleep for 12 hours one night, but didn’t allow them to sleep the next night. Then, the researchers had the group eat a big buffet the next morning. When the men were sleep-deprived, their energy expenditure was 5 percent lower than usual, and went down to 20 percent after the big meal.

Furthermore, the longer you stay awake without letting your body repair itself, the more likely your waistline and overall health will be compromised, according to Susan Zafarlotfi, clinical director of the Institute for Sleep and Wake Disorders at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey.

“Sleep debt is like credit card debt,” she said. “If you keep accumulating credit card debt, you will pay high interest rates or your account will be shut down until you pay it all off. If you accumulate too much sleep debt, your body will crash.”

You Have Less Control

Researchers who studied the brain activity of tired people found that a sleepy brain also has less ability to resist junk food. The explanation could be a that when we’re tired, we tend to emotionally eat.

“It’s almost as though, without sleep, the brain had reverted back to more primitive patterns of activity, in that it was unable to put emotional experiences into context and produce controlled, appropriate responses,” said senior author of the study Matthew Walker, director of UC Berkeley’s Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory.

And when you emotionally eat, you’re likely to make poor food choices, according to Dr. Zafarlotfi. “When you have sleep deprivation and are running on low energy, you automatically go for a bag of potato chips or other comfort foods,” she said.

It’s recommended that if you’re trying to lose weight but get hungry on those late night-time drives, choose high-protien, low-sugar snacks that will also help you stay alert on the road.

U.S. Berkley News
American Heart Association
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