Why skimping on sleep could be making you FAT

Not getting adequate sleep at night has been linked with overeating, poor food choices, and weight gain. A new study shows that lack of sleep also amplifies and extends the blood levels of a chemical that enhances the joy you feel when you eat especially sweet, salty, or high-fat snack foods.

Findings published in the journal SLEEP showed that sleep-deprived participants are unable to resist what the researchers considered were highly palatable, satisfying snacks. These included cookies, candy, and chips. This was despite the participants having consumed a meal that already supplied 90 percent of their daily caloric needs just two hours prior.

The study further noted that the effects of sleep loss on appetite were most evident in the late afternoon as well as the early evening – prime time for mindless and excessive snacking that often leads to weight gain.

How lack of sleep affects your snacking habits

According to Dr. Erin Hanlon, a research associate in endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolism at the University of Chicago, “We found that sleep restriction boosts a signal that may increase the hedonic aspect of food intake, the pleasure, and satisfaction gained from eating.”

She explains that lack of sleep augments the endocannabinoid system. This is the very same system that marijuana targets to increase a user’s desire for food.

The chemical signal involved is called endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). At night, the chemical’s levels, 2-AG usually stay low only to rise once morning comes and peak come early afternoon. When a person lacks sleep, 2-AG levels stay up throughout the evening.

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According to the researchers, this was why the participants experienced stronger cravings especially for foods high in carbs and fats. Indeed, given access to snacks, the participants consumed twice the amount of fatty and carb-rich foods compared to what they would have eaten if they a full eight-hour sleep.

Hanlon further explains that each added hour of wakefulness uses about 17 extra calories, which adds up to about 70 calories for the four hours of lost sleep. Given the opportunity, however, the subjects in the study more than made up for the missing calories by taking in more than 300 extra calories. In the long run, lacking sleep and the eating behavior it causes  will lead to weight gain, among other complications.

How to get better sleep at night

As the study suggests, getting a full night’s sleep is essential to avoiding obesity and ensuring optimal health. But what if you have difficulty sleeping? You can follow the tips below:

  • Increase your exposure to bright light during the day – Getting enough sunlight during the day will help your body “understand” when it’s time to rest.
  • Reduce blue light exposure at night – Blue light is common during the day, so being exposed to it at night may fool your body into thinking it’s time to stay awake. Your phone and other digital screens emit blue light, so limiting your use of them at night will help you sleep better.
  • Don’t drink caffeine in the afternoon – Caffeine keeps you awake, which is why it’s great during the morning when you have to be ready for a new day. However, drinking it late during the day can disturb your sleep cycle and prevent you from sleeping on time.
  • Don’t take daytime naps – Sleeping irregularly is another great way to disrupt your body’s sleep cycle. If you must take a nap, make sure it’s no longer than 30 minutes. Power naps improve your brain’s function, but too much of it is bad for you.
  • Be consistent – Sleeping and waking up at consistent and regular hours establishes a pattern that your body can easily follow.

Improve your sleeping habits with tips from Remedies.news.

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