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Health, Beauty & Fashion

Less sleep, more weight gain

A new study found that people who had less rest gained weight as they tend to binge on late-night snacks.
The Straits Times - March 18, 2013
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Less sleep, more weight gain

Sleeping a mere five hours a night during a work week with unlimited access to snacks is not good for your waistline, based on findings of a study released on Monday.

The study, led by the University of Colorado in the United States, found that participants gained nearly 1kg when put in such a situation.

Previous studies have shown that a lack of shut-eye can lead to the packing on of kilos but the reasons for the extra weight were unclear, the authors of the latest research said.

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the newest findings show that, while staying awake longer did indeed require more energy, the extra calories burned were more than offset by the amount of food the study participants consumed.

"Just getting less sleep, by itself, is not going to lead to weight gain," said Dr Kenneth Wright, director of the Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory at the university who led the study.

"But when people get insufficient sleep, it leads them to eat more than they actually need."

The researchers monitored 16 young, lean and healthy men and women who lived for two weeks at the University of Colorado Hospital, which has a sleep suite.

The researchers measured how much energy participants used by keeping tabs on the amount of oxygen they inhaled and the amount of carbon dioxide they exhaled.

All participants spent the first three days with the opportunity to sleep nine hours a night and ate controlled meals meant to maintain their weight. Then, they were split into two groups.

The first group spent the next five days with only five hours of sleep, while the other group spent those days with nine hours of rest.

After the five days, the amount of sleeping time was switched for the groups.

In both groups, participants were offered larger meals and access to snacks that included ice cream and potato chips but also healthier options such as fruit and yogurt.

On average, those who slept for up to five hours a night burned 5 per cent more energy than those who snoozed up to nine hours.

However, those with less shut-eye also consumed 6 per cent more calories.

Those getting less rest tended to eat smaller breakfasts but binged on after-dinner snacks, the researchers found. In fact, the late-night food intake totalled more in calories than individual meals, they said.

They also found that men and women responded differently to having access to unrestricted amounts of food.

While both men and women put on weight when only allowed to sleep five hours, men gained weight - even with "adequate" rest - when they could eat as much as they desired.

Women, however, maintained their weight when they had "adequate" sleep, no matter how much food was at their disposal.

A separate study published last month said sleep deficit - even just a week's worth - can have damaging effects on the genes.

Lack of adequate shut-eye has already been linked to conditions such as heart disease, cognitive impairment and obesity.

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