Can 'Junk Sleep' Lead To Junk Food?

Can ‘Junk Sleep’ Lead To Junk Food?

‘Junk Sleep’ = Junk Food?

It’s late. You’re tired. You’re hungry. You open up a bag of a snack food — let’s say, chips — and 20 minutes later, it’s empty. The whole bag is gone!

You may not be hungry anymore, but you’ve sabotaged your day, nutritionally speaking. The quantities of calories, salt and fats you’ve just consumed far exceed the daily recommended allowances (not counting what you had already eaten).

Going through these motions of mindlessly satisfying your late-day hunger with little or no dietary value is an all-too-familiar scenario for many of us. Repeating this over time could contribute to high blood pressure, clogged arteries and even obesity.

Why would you do such a thing? You knew it was unwise. You had a fulfilling breakfast, lunch and dinner. Why were you so hungry, and why did you reach for that greasy bag when the pantry and refrigerator were stocked with much healthier alternatives?

The answer to all of these questions could be, “junk sleep.”

What is junk sleep? Insufficient, inadequate, fragmented sleep. Junk sleep happens when you go through the motions of sleep, but fall short both in terms of duration and quality all too often. This can happen for weeks, or even months at a time. Several studies have strongly suggested that curtailed quality sleep not only leads to overeating, but also an abandonment of healthy eating habits, leading to poor food choices. In a sentence, junk sleep leads to junk food.

A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition identified a link between insufficient sleep and an increase in daily calories from snacks. Another study conducted by researchers at the Mayo Clinic attempted to quantify the effect of ineffective sleep on caloric intake. It found that sleep-deprived subjects consumed upward of 500 more calories per day than the adequately rested control group did. If this high-calorie intake is sustained, an extra pound is imminent in just a matter of weeks! Could junk sleep be partly to blame for America’s obesity crisis? A third of the adult U.S. population is obese, with nearly 60 percent of people overweight.

To break it down, insufficient sleep has been shown to alter:

  1. Our appetite-regulating hormones. It appears that when we are sleep-deprived, we are constantly hungry and never quite satisfied with our meals or caloric intake. The result? We consume unnecessary calories.

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