• David Steuer

Sleep has an impact on not just what we eat, but also how we eat

Updated: Mar 28, 2019

Increasingly, researchers are discovering that lack of sleep has serious health consequences. Habitual insufficient sleep patterns have been associated with a higher risk of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and all-cause mortality.

Moreover, insufficient sleep has been linked to obesity.

In a recent study published in Advances in Nutrition, researchers examine the relations between habitual lack of sleep and dietary intake in adults.

According to the authors of this scientific review article, links between habitual short sleep duration and poor health outcomes may be mediated through changes in dietary intake.

To conduct their review, the authors examined the findings from 16 recent epidemiologic studies.

Based on their analysis, the authors presented evidence that insufficient sleep is associated with higher fat intake and higher total caloric intake.

They found some limited evidence connecting insufficient sleep with lower consumption of fruits and vegetables.

The authors also found evidence that sleep has an impact on not just what we eat, but also how we eat.

Specifically, evidence points to the fact that people who habitually don’t get enough sleep tend to deviate from the traditional three meals a day, eating smaller, more frequent high calorie appetizing snacks throughout the day.

Moreover, they tend to eat more at night than people who get sufficient sleep.

Evidence also points to physiological changes among insufficient sleepers that may lead to weight gain.

The authors pointed to some interesting studies that found a link between sleep deprivation and changes in the body’s leptin and ghrelin levels, two hormones that regulate and stimulate appetite.

This may be the body’s way of providing additional fuel to keep tired people alert and able to function.

Furthermore, results from neuroimaging experiments suggest that sleep deprivation enhances hedonic stimulus processing in the brain and alters brain connectivity, providing a sense of greater reward from food when you are tired.

This enhanced sense of reward may lead to increased consumption of high calorie, highly palatable snacks.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, the average adult should sleep between seven and nine hours a day; however, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey reports that more than a third of Americans sleep six hours or less a day on average.

Looking at historical data on sleep duration, it is clear that insufficient sleep is increasing among Americans, which, in turn, is leading to a growing public health problem.

In conclusion, the authors call for more rigorous research into the connection between sleep deprivation and diet.

More research will help us develop realistic recommendations to enable people to get the sleep they need and prevent obesity and related chronic diseases.

News source: American Society of Nutrition.

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