Sleep Poorly? You May Eat Too Much the Next Day

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Did you not get enough sleep last night? You may find yourself overeating today.

That’s the conclusion investigators came to after reviewing data on 172 participants in 11 sleep studies. The study designs varied, but they all tested people after a night of restricted sleep, usually about four hours, and then after a night of normal rest.

The next day, participants were offered a breakfast buffet or scheduled meals later in the day. The scientists recorded calorie intake and tracked energy expenditure with heart rate monitors and other electronic devices.

The analysis, in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that after a night of limited sleep, people consumed an average of 385 extra calories the next day, roughly the equivalent of a frosted cupcake or a serving of fries. They also consumed more fat and less protein.

Some have suggested that sleep deprivation affects the hormones that control appetite, but the authors write that it may also be possible that lack of sleep heightens the desire to seek food as a reward.

The researchers acknowledge that the studies had small samples, were conducted in controlled laboratory conditions and were of short duration.

Still, the senior author, Gerda K. Pot, a lecturer at King’s College London, said that the subject is worth investigating further. “Poor sleep,” she said, “could be a risk factor for obesity — and it’s something we can change.”