Friday, October 14, 2016

Lack of Sleep May Be Responsible for Weight Gain

A close-up photo of a preschool girl eating at a table alongside her fellow classmates.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Have you been getting your recommended 7-9 hours of sleep per night? If not, here’s a new reason to catch up on those z’s: a study published by the University of Colorado at Boulder shows that sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain.

In all fairness, the study was conducted on preschoolers (ages 3 and 4). But that doesn’t mean the results aren’t relevant to older age groups. The study revealed that sleep-deprived preschoolers ingested about 20% more calories than normal. The preschoolers also consumed 25% more sugar and 26% more carbohydrates.

The next day, the children were granted as much sleep as they wanted. Researchers found that on this “recovery day” the preschoolers’ sugar and carbohydrate consumption returned to normal. However, they still ingested 14% more calories and 23% more fat than usual.

Assistant Professor Monique LeBourgeois, lead author of the study, hopes that her latest research will provide answers to the obesity epidemic plaguing the United States.

"We found that sleep loss increased the dietary intake of preschoolers on both the day of and the day after restricted sleep," said LeBourgeois. “We think one of the beauties of this study is that parents were given no instructions regarding the kind or amount of food or beverages to provide their children."

The latest study comes at a time when the CDC estimates that more than a third of U.S. children and adults are either overweight or obese. While similar studies have been conducted in the past, this will be the first study to examine the effect that sleep has on eating habits in preschool children.

That’s not to say there aren’t issues with the study. For example, only five boys and five girls were studiedan incredibly small number to draw conclusions from. Additionally, since parents were in charge of tracking their children’s eating habits while they were at home, there’s no real way to verify the accuracy of those recordings.

With that being said, the study still reinforces the importance of sleep. Whether it’s for weight loss purposes or not, getting enough sleep is a cornerstone to good health.