Regularly getting a good night’s sleep could be just as important as diet and exercise in preventing weight gain, according to a new study.
A team of researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden conducted numerous experiments into the subject of sleep deprivation and its effects on weight. In one experiment, 14 male students underwent a series of specific sleep experiences over several days, such as having normal sleep, no sleep and curtailed sleep.
They were then measured for changes to how much food they consumed, as well as having their hormone levels, metabolic rate and blood sugar recorded.
The researchers found that when a student had no sleep, their metabolism slowed the next day, with the amount of energy spent doing tasks such as digesting food and breathing falling between 5 and 20 per cent.
Additionally, blood sugar levels were higher, as were their levels of hormones that regulate appetite (such as ghrelin) and stress hormones (such as cortisol).
However, while a lack of sleep had effects on the participants’ eating habits, it did not appear to boost the amount of food eaten during the day.
“Our studies suggest that sleep loss favours weight gain in humans,” said Christian Benedict, a neuroscientist at Uppsala University.
“Sleep-deprived people prefer larger food portions, seek more calories and eat impulsively. Sleep loss shifts the hormonal balance from those which promote fullness to those that promote hunger, such as ghrelin. As a result, people think they are hungrier than they really are.
“It is therefore fair to say that improving sleep could be a promising lifestyle intervention to reduce the risk of future weight gain.”