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This Bad Sleep Habit Leads to Overeating

This Bad Sleep Habit Leads to Overeating

In the 2004 film The Machinist, Trevor Reznik (Cristian Bale), questions his sanity after not sleeping for a year. Bale lost a staggering 65 pounds for the role, eating only an apple and a can of tuna a day leading up to filming.

Turns out, to accurately portray an insomniac Bale should have eaten more, not less, than usual. That’s because there’s growing evidence that a lack of sleep triggers overeating. Researchers reviewed 11 studies with data on 172 people that looked at the connection between sleep deprivation and eating. They found folks who were short on sleep (getting between three and five-and-a-half hours a night) ate an average of 385 extra calories a day.

Not getting enough Zs disrupts the balance of your appetite-controlling hormones, increasing levels of ghrelin, the feed-me-now hormone, and decreasing levels of the I’m-full-and-happy hormone, leptin. Other research shows that people who are short on sleep, experience big-time reward from eating and have a higher motivation to seek food. They’re also likely to eat more fat and less protein.

So if you’re trying to get a handle on your calorie intake, make sure to get 7 to 8 hours of shut-eye nightly. And if you find you’re short of sleep and you’re hungry, try loading more lean and plant-based protein into your diet. It will help increase leptin sensitivity and regulate your appetite. Still hungry? Go for a walk and drink more water. No kidding. Thirst satisfaction can substitute for food and tamp down cravings induced by insomnia.

Medically reviewed in January 2019.

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