Want some sweets? You might need more sleep

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It’s a new year and many people are starting their annual diet. We all know that we are losing the battle to lose weight. Obesity and diabetes rates continue to climb.

Simple advice abounds:

  • Eat less, exercise more
  • Practice mindful eating, savor every bite
  • Cut the carbs
  • reduce fat
  • Eat more plant-based foods
  • And so on

These simple strategies just don’t work. Why not? The problem is not so simple, after all.

Appetite, body fat, muscle mass and weight are actually extraordinarily complicated things. They all revolve around what we call metabolismwhich is influenced by more than what we eat or how much we move. Hormones, neurotransmitters, stress, the temperature of our environment and countless other factors play a role. Sleep is important, and a study has just been published in the journal Sleep show me how.

The researchers took 93 teenagers and assigned them five nights of healthy sleep (9.5 hours of sleep) and five separate nights of short sleep (6.5 hours of sleep). They also asked participants to record what, when and how much they ate in each sleep condition.

Deprived of sleep, the teenagers consumed more carbohydrates, added sugars and sugary drinks, and they ate fewer fruits and vegetables. The differences in calories, fats and carbohydrates were particularly large after 9 p.m.

This research tells a story that many of us know. When we are stressed and/or tired, we tend to eat more in the evening and we do not eat fruits or vegetables. We eat junk food. This is delicious. This “comforts” us. We often do this while watching television. Although we “all knew better”, when we’re stressed or tired, we almost always lose the battle.

The story of Why what happens is actually quite complicated. It involves many hormones, neurotransmitters and brain reward circuits. The good news, however, is that you don’t need to understand this complex story to do anything, you can just get more sleep.

If you’re struggling with your weight and find yourself ditching your diet, especially at night watching TV, here’s a simple solution: go to bed instead. Privilege your sleep to “relaxation” in front of the television. In fact, there’s no better way to unwind than to get a good night’s sleep.

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