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More Sleep, Fewer Cravings? Maybe Not


There is good news for those who hit the snooze button this morning to get a little extra zzzs: A study recently published in the journal Appetite found that those adults who slept an average of 90 minutes extra were less hungry and had fewer cravings the following day.

University of Chicago researchers studied 10 overweight or obese men and women who at the start of the study slept an average of six and half hours per night or less. During the study they stuck with their normal sleep routine for one week and then increased ito around eight hours per night for another week. The results revealed that those who went to bed earlier or stayed in bed for longer experienced a 14-percent drop in appetite and a 62-percent decline in desire for unhealthy salty or sweet snacks.

The important thing to realize with this study is that the participants were originally not getting adequate sleep. There have been many previous studies that will support that lack of sleep is associated with weight gain. At the American Heart Association’s 2011 Scientific Sessions, one study showed that women who got only four hours of sleep at night ate 329 additional calories the next day than they did when they slept nine hours. Another study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that subjects who were sleep-deprived increased their nighttime snacking and were more likely to choose high-carbohydrate snacks.

It seems the reason our appetite increases with lack of sleep are related to two key hormones in our body: ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is the hormorne that tells you when to eat, and leptin tells you when to stop. But it appears that when you are sleep-deprived, your ghrelin levels go up and your leptin goes down.

RELATED: The New Rules of Hunger

In my practice I find that those patients who do not get adequate sleep (greater than six hours for most) find it harder to stick to a healthy eating and exercise regime. When they are too tired in the morning, they can’t seem to bother choosing a healthy option but rather opt for a buttered roll or bagel and cream cheese, setting an unhealthy tone for the day.

Going to bed earlier is the best way for getting more sleep since sleeping longer in the morning is not an option for most employed individuals. Start with just 15 minutes earlier at night, and then keep going until you can master a total of eight hours. Also put your morning meal on auto-drive: Have your yogurt, berries, and sliced almonds ready to grab no matter how tired you are.

The other good news about going to bed earlier is that you can’t snack late at night if you are sleeping.

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