We know that sleep is important.
Go too long without a good night’s kip and you end up irritable, unable to concentrate, and sometimes in a compromised mental state.
But it can take a physical toll too.
A new study, presented at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in the US, has confirmed that not getting enough sleep leads to a heightened risk of obesity because we crave junk food far more when we’re tired.
Sleep researchers have found that two-thirds of people crave junk food when they haven’t had enough sleep.
60% of participants reported regular nighttime snacking, which is linked to obesity and an increased risk of diabetes.
They also found that poor sleep quality leads to major junk food cravings.
‘Laboratory studies suggest that sleep deprivation can lead to junk food cravings at night, which leads to increased unhealthy snacking at night, which then leads to weight gain,’ says Dr Michael Grandner, professor of psychiatry at the University of Arizona.
‘This study provides important information about the process, that these laboratory findings may actually translate to the real world.
‘This connection between poor sleep, junk food cravings and unhealthy nighttime snacking may represent an important way that sleep helps regulate metabolism.’
As many as 20% of people suffer from sleep and wakefulness disorders, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services.
Lead author Christopher Sanchez, a student research assistant in the Sleep and Health Research Programme, added: ‘Sleep is increasingly recognized as an important factor in health, alongside nutrition.
‘This study shows how sleep and eating patterns are linked and work together to promote health.’
So if you’re trying to maintain or lose a little weight, a good place to start might be with making sure that you’re getting a solid eight hours a night and seeing what difference that makes to the food you choose.
Apart from anything else, giving your body a proper rest can bring down the level of cortisol (stress hormone) produced and that in turn can allow the body to stop clinging onto fat and holding in lean muscle. So the more sleep you get, the more effective your body can work in terms of metabolism and growth.