By: Chris O'Shea
There has been plenty of research that shows losing sleep leads to weight gain. In short: If you don't sleep at least seven hours a night, the data proved you could pack on the pounds as the years went by. Over time, not only would you be sleepy, you'd be fat, too. Now a study is out that indicates it doesn't take much time at all. If you miss an hour or two of sleep in just a couple of days, you're likely to gain weight right away. No time to offset the results, just bam! You've got some extra padding around the middle.
To come to this conclusion, researchers at the University of Colorado studied the diet, sleep and metabolism of 16 men and women over the course of one week. The subjects were kept on close watch, as they stayed in a room where everything was controlled. Every single morsel, every single calorie, every single moment of sleep. This sounds like a nightmare, but hey, we're glad there are some people out there who like science so much they'll participate in these crazy studies...or at least that desperate for cash.
As the week went by, half of the subjects were permitted to sleep nine hours per night (okay, there's one fun part of participating in this study) while the other half were only allowed to sleep five hours per night. Each group was also allowed unlimited access to food during this time (yes, that makes two fun parts). The second week of the study the groups were reversed. The team found that those who slept less gained an average of two pounds by the end of the first week. And when the groups were reversed, the sleep-deprived fatties began to lose the weight they gained during the first week.
Kenneth Wright, the lead expert behind the experiment and the director of the University of Colorado's sleep and chronobiology lab, told the New York Times that when the subjects were tired, they ate the worst food possible at the worst times possible. "We found that when people weren’t getting enough sleep they overate carbohydrates," explained Wright. "They ate more food, and when they ate food also changed. They ate a smaller breakfast and they ate a lot more after dinner."
Wright's study is notable because it shows that sleep is much more tied to weight gain than previously thought. And look, we could argue that of course people gain weight when they sleep less. If you're awake longer you have more opportunities to eat. Essentially, more hours in the day equals more Doritos in the belly. But we'd suggest not bringing that up. Why? Because this study just gave you an excellent excuse to sleep more. If anyone asks why you're sleeping in until two in the afternoon each day, just reply, "Gotta stay slim!"
[Pic via Flickr - rachel CALAMUSA]