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People Who Sleep Less, Eat More

Want to stay trim? Then simply get more sleep.

This was the finding suggested by a recent study that found that normal-weight young men gobbled a Big Mac’s worth of extra calories when they had only gotten four hours of sleep the night before compared to those who slept for eight hours.

Given the findings, and the fact that people have been sleeping less and getting fatter over the past few decades, “sleep restriction could be one of the environmental factors that contribute to the obesity epidemic,” the researchers wrote in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Across two 48 hour sessions, Laurent Brondel, MD, of the European Center for Taste Sciences in Dijon, France, and colleagues looked at sleep, eating, and energy expenditure among 12 healthy young men. During the 2-day control period, the study participants stuck to their normal routines but kept track of their sleep, eating, and activities in a diary. In the second 2-day period, the men went to bed at midnight and woke up at 8 a.m. on one day, and on the other day went to bed at 2 a.m. and woke up at 6 a.m. They were allowed to eat as much as they liked.

The researchers found that after a night of four hours of sleep, the men took in on average 22 percent more calories than when they were allowed to sleep for eight hours. The average calorie increase was about 560. “It is time to understand that sleep is not just losing time,” the investigators said. “Besides the recovery processes that occur, there are many other functions like energy conservation, memory, and so on that are also going on.”

Although a number of studies have linked shorter sleep duration with higher body mass index, none have actually looked at what happens to a normal-weight person’s eating patterns when he or she sleeps less.

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