The obesity epidemic is being targeted on several fronts across the country, from healthier school lunches to calls for taxes on sugary drinks. But a newly published study says something else may help, too: more sleep.
"What this study was looking at was kind of acute sleep deprivation and how that influences both circadian rhythm, hunger, hormone levels and also actual intake of food and this showed that with acute sleep deprivation, even though you're spending more energy while you're awake, you're also consuming more calories," said Dr. Garrick Applebee of the Vermont Regional Sleep Center, Fletcher Allen Health Care.
Participants in the Colorado study burned 5 percent more energy when they were restricted to just five hours of sleep, but they consumed 6 percent more calories by eating snacks after dinner. That meant a weight gain of two pounds during the study's two-week duration. It also showed a change in the timing of regular meals. People ate more snacks, but less breakfast.
Doctors say extra sleep itself is not going to lead to weight loss, but they believe weight loss programs should encourage healthy sleep. It could mean one more tool in the battle against obesity.
"It certainly could and I think that certainly as sleep doctors we're prejudiced that most people should be getting a bit more sleep, and I think it's just another indicator that sleep as it impacts your total health can be an important part of being a healthy individual," Applebee said.
The next step: researchers plan to look at the effect of when people eat, as opposed to what they eat.
The study from the University of Colorado in Boulder was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
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