Health: The Less You Sleep, The More You Gain

March 22 2013, 10:09 AM

In the battle of the buldge, sleep has always been a tool prescribed with the duo of "exercise more, eat less." Fitting in at least seven hours of sleep every night benefits memory and learning, boosts mood and immunity, lowers hypertension and stress hormone levels, and holds our metabolism and weight gain steady. But when you're averaging closer to five hours of sleep, researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder wanted to find out just how much weight gain resulted from the sleep deprivation. Their findings? In only one workweek, the shortened nights of sleep and unlimited access to food caused participants to gain two pounds.

Published on Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the study found that participants who slept less burned 5 percent more energy than their well-rested peers, but overcompensated by eating 6 percent more calories. That slight overcorrection happened at night, when the body is less efficient at breaking down food and calories, and the calorie count surpassed what they ate at meals.

While the researchers aren't saying more sleep will help you lose weight, snoozing for a few more hours each night could prevent you from gaining more. If you have to burn the midnight oil, snack responsibly, or make up for the extra calorie burn with seconds at dinner.

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