Sleep Deprivation May Increase Hunger

Sleep deprivation may lead to increased hunger and the consumption of more calories, according to a study from Columbia University's New York Obesity Research Center.

In addition to a number of other ill effects thought to be exacerbated by lack of sleep, the new research suggests sleep-deprived people will eat more foods high in fat and protein.

Women in the study who slept for only four hours ate an average of 329 more calories than when they were allotted nine hours. Men consumed 263 more. The study consisted of 13 male and 13 female volunteers between the ages of 30 and 45. They followed a strict schedule for two 6-day stints, one allowing the longer sleep times and one keeping them slightly sleep-deprived.

Marie-Pierre St. Onge, Ph.D., the lead researcher on the study, says this study may help to explain the link between obesity and insufficient sleep shown in other research projects. "This study shows a possible causative effect," she says.

Both men and women ate more protein when low on sleep. Women, however, exclusively ate more fat as well, consuming an average of 31 grams more.

Possible reasons for the effect, according to, include an impaired ability to make good dietary choices brought on by the sleep deprivation. In addition, a person low on sleep may gravitate toward quick sources of energy to perk up.

"It has an impact on cognitive restraint," St. Onge says. "High-fat food is tempting, and maybe on short sleep you can't restrain yourself as well, while on full sleep you can resist more easily."

The study offers "one more data point that sleep-deprived people have more weight issues," says Gina Lundberg, M.D., a clinical assistant professor of cardiology at the Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta . "And if we understand the problem better, we'll be better able to fix the problem."

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