Sleep is critical.
If you don’t get enough of it, almost every aspect of your life will suffer—including your diet.
A new research analysis published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that getting too little sleep in a given night leads people to eat more during the following day.
“Partial sleep deprivation resulted in increased energy intake with no effect on energy expenditure, leading to a net positive energy balance, which in the long term may contribute to weight gain,” the authors wrote. The researchers defined a “full night’s sleep” as at least seven hours, while “partial sleep deprivation” was defined as a night of between 3.5 and 5.5 hours of sleep. The analysis pooled data from 11 different studies and found that people ate an average of 385 extra calories on days after they hadn’t gotten a full night’s sleep.
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The researchers also discovered that a poor night of sleep led people to eat more fat and less protein the following day. Protein helps you stay full throughout the day, so eating less of it could lead to an increase in daily calorie consumption.
A general benchmark states that an extra 500 calories per day leads to one pound of weight gain per week. Considering that poor sleep can lead people to consume nearly that many extra calories each day, an argument can be made that insufficient sleep is one of the driving factors in our nation’s obesity problem.
Other studies have found a connection between insufficient sleep and poor nutritional choices. A 2013 study in the journal Pyschoneuroendocrinology found that sleep-deprived people choose larger portions than those who aren’t sleep deprived, and a 2013 study in the journal Obesity found that sleep deprivation led men to buy more high-calorie foods while grocery shopping.
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