A recent study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion has shown a link between a lack of sleep and eating excessively. The University of Alabama researchers studied data from over 28,000 American adults in order to assess a possible relationship between short sleep and ‘secondary’ eating and drinking, a term that refers to consuming food and beverages other than water while attention is focused on another activity, such as watching the news or reading a book.
Many people have a snack while watching TV, but studies showed that those who had less than 7 hours of sleep tended to eat in this way for an additional 8.7 minutes per day. Not only did they eat more on less sleep, they also drank more: on average, between 28 and 32 minutes of secondary drinking.
Previous research has also suggested a link between rising obesity rates and insufficient sleep. These two factors are cyclical: missing out on sleep may contribute to obesity, but being obese also contributes to a lack of sleep.
Sleep plays an important role in maintaining both glucose metabolism as well as the communication between the nervous and digestive systems. When we don’t get enough sleep, we experience direct consequences, the most noticeable of which includes increased appetite. This is caused by an increase in ghrelin, a hormone that makes us feel hungrier. Unfortunately, a lack of sleep has also been proven to decrease leptin, a hormone that makes us feel satiated—in other words, it tells you “I’m full, stop eating”.
Obesity is also related to obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a condition in which the upper airway is blocked during sleep, causing your breathing to repeatedly start and stop. Among those classified as severely obese, about 94% of men and 74% of women suffer from OSA. Studies also show that not only does OSA inhibit sleep, it may also lead to decreased physical activity and caloric intake.
Sleep apnea affects 1 in 6 Americans. If you’ve been having trouble getting at least 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night, it’s possible you may have a sleep disorder. Get more sleep and avoid secondary eating by scheduling a home sleep study, which is a type of diagnostic test that helps analyze your sleep patterns and respiratory activity. ZendyHealth could help you save 20-50% off the retail cost of a sleep study in the comfort of your own home.