In a society where health trends seem to change with the weather — one week it's all about chia seeds, the next, kombucha is the number-one cure-all — one health fix remains controversy-free: sleep. By now, you probably know all about the positive effects that good sleep habits can have on your physical and psychological health. But, according to a recent study published by The University of Colorado, your sleep habits may have much more of a direct and immediate effect on your weight than any of us thought.
In the study, which measured sleep and its effects on metabolism, appetite, and weight among 16 healthy men and women, researchers found that while sleep deprivation actually spikes your metabolism, even just a few nights of meager sleep can lead to marked, immediate weight gain (in this study, that meant an average of two pounds over a period of a week). The reason? Sleep deprivation caused participants to eat more food at mealtimes, crave more caloric (a.k.a. carb- and fat-heavy) foods, plus it affected the participants' eating cycles. When the participants were kept up until midnight and only slept for five hours, they tended to indulge in much more post-dinner eating, and tended to skip breakfast. All of these changed habits added up to an intake of six percent more calories a day.
The take-home here: it seems that before focusing on diet or exercise, people seeking to lose weight should focus first on their sleep habits. If you're truly looking to get healthy, that whole burning-the-candle mid-week and sleeping in on the weekends plan is probably messing with your weight-stabilization mojo. The science has spoken: Good sleep habits are absolutely integral to your health, so it's definitely in your best interest to move sleep from the bottom to the tippy-top of your priority list. Trust us, you won't regret it. (New York Times)