Not getting enough sleep and having cabinets loaded with junk food is a recipe for weight gain—nearly two pounds, according to a study from the University of Colorado in Boulder.
The study suggests that sufficient sleep could help battle the obesity epidemic.
“I don’t think extra sleep by itself is going to lead to weight loss,” says Kenneth Wright, director of the university’s Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory. “Problems with weight gain and obesity are much more complex than that. But I think it could help. If we can incorporate healthy sleep into weight-loss and weight-maintenance programs, our findings suggest that it may assist people to obtain a healthier weight.”
Previous research has shown that a lack of sleep can lead to weight gain, but the reasons for extra pounds were unclear. In the new study, published March 11 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers show that, while staying awake longer requires more energy, the amount of food that participants ate more than offset the extra calories burned.
For the two-week study, researchers monitored the weight changes in 16 healthy adults, half of whom were sleep deprived and had snacks available. On average, the participants who slept for up to five hours a night burned 5% more energy than those who slept up to nine hours a night, but they consumed 6% more calories.