A new study has correlated “short sleep” (defined as five to six hours of shut-eye) with eating higher amounts of calories. So, rather than “you are what you eat”, we can now say “you eat how you sleep.”
Published in the journal Appetite, the study looked at data from the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) involving 4,548 people. Researchers examine how much sleep each person reported getting each night, as well as a detailed daily food diary. Sleep habits were defined as “very short” (less than five hours a night), “short” (five to six hours a night), standard (seven to eight hours) and long (nine or more hours).
They found that people that reported having the short sleep times also reported eating the highest number of calories. Specifically, people in the “short” category consumed the most, followed by normal sleepers, and then very short sleepers. Long sleepers consumed the least calories. Normal sleepers had the most varied diets (thought to be an indicator of good health) and very short sleepers had the least.
This isn’t the first study to look at the relationship between sleep and diet. According to TIME:
Research suggests sleep deprivation interferes with hunger and satiety hormones crucial to regulating appetite. But the study authors suggest that the relationship works both ways, and that diet can alter sleep as well. Some of the interactions are well known already, such as how drinking too much water and interrupt sleep by waking you up to use the bathroom, or how consuming heavy and spicy foods can keep you up, but there may be less apparent effects as well.
Basically, this study is different because it purports that diets affects sleep, rather than sleep just affecting diet (something I’ve read a million times in weight-loss articles that urge people to get enough sleep so they don’t overeat). Still, the results of this study don’t necessarily surprise me, although I do wonder if the researchers accounted for things like illness, health conditions, emotional state and more in their data. Those kinds of variables can easily affect both what you eat and how well you sleep.