The other day I read about yet another new diet—this one an anti-carb plan imported from France. Do you ever feel like everywhere you look there’s some new fad diet? Some claim you should only eat protein, others that you should only eat raw greens, and still others think you should only consume liquids. Most of these diet plans are ineffective (and some of them seem downright dangerous), and they all overlook one important aspect that can affect what and how much we eat: sleep.
The connection between sleep and diet may seem surprising. We’ve known for a while, though, that there is a fairly well-established link between sleep deprivation and diabetes and obesity. A new study out of Columbia University may help explain this connection. The study’s findings suggest that sleep deprivation may actually make you eat more. They found that:
- People who are sleep-deprived will eat more foods high in fat and protein
- When compared to other women who had slept nine hours, women who had only slept four hours consumed 329 more calories on average
- When compared to other men who had slept nine hours, men who had only slept four hours consumed 263 more calories on average
Notice the difference between the men and women? Interestingly, while both men and women ate more high-protein food, sleep-deprived women ate on average 31 more grams of fat than did their male counterparts. We know that women tend to sleep more poorly than men—it seems that the increase in hunger due to lack of sleep is also not equal. Though the study only looked at adults, other research shows that this desire to eat more food (especially junk food) is also a problem for teens.
There are several possible reasons that people with less sleep eat more. Less sleep leads to poor judgment in many situations, and if you’re very tired throughout the day you may either eat more food to attempt to stay awake, or constantly look for quick fixes like energy drinks and bars, which are more often than not full of sugar and calories (they also can make it even more difficult to fall asleep, which makes the problem of eating because of sleep deprivation that much worse). Also, time spent sleeping is time you aren’t eating—if you’re up late at night, you may be likely to snack.
Do you find that you eat more throughout the day after a bad night’s sleep? Are you tired, both from lack of sleep and of useless fad-diets? It might be time for a diet that focuses not only on what you eat, but how you sleep.
I am very excited about my new book, coming out on May 10th:-The Sleep Doctor's Diet Plan: Lose Weight through Better Sleep. I wrote this book to help you learn more about how sleep can boost your metabolism, decrease your hunger, and increase your energy and willpower. The science is there to overwhelming show that better sleep can help you be healthier, happier, and even thinner.
For you and your whole family, a solid start to a healthy body is just a good night’s sleep away.
Michael J. Breus, PhD
The Sleep Doctor™
Everything you do, you do better with a good night’s sleep™