In the 24/7 culture of Western countries a lot of people don’t get enough sleep. I just started my PhD in England. This means a new job, a new culture and building up a social life. Busy, busy, busy, like so many people these days. Lately I am not always sleeping enough. But what kind of effect does that have on my eating behaviour?
How much sleep is enough sleep?
If you sleep less than six hours per night you are sleep depriving. Exact sleep need differ per person, but on average seven to eight hours per night is sufficient. Negative health effects are linked to too much sleep, but this is possibly because ill people sleep longer. Sleeping longer is then not the cause of the disease, but the consequence.
Effects of too little sleep on your appetite
Chronic sleep deprivation increases your chances of becoming overweight and obese. That may sound a little strange. You would think that you burn more calories if you sleep less. This turns out to be a wrong assumption. If you sleep less and are tired, you are less active during the day. Consequently, you burn the same amount of calories as when you sleep enough hours. Furthermore, sleeping less makes you eat more. You have more time to eat, but are also more hungry. Sleep deprivation leads to changes in hormones that regulate your appetite (mainly leptin and ghrelin). Additionally, if you are sleep deprived, your body releases more rewarding substances in your brain. In other words, you feel better after eating.
What do I do?
I try to sleep at least seven hours per night, if possible eight. My life is a little bit chaotic right now. Everything here in England is new and exciting. But I know that if I sleep enough I am capable of dealing with this a lot better. So from now on I am making it a priority again. If I don’t sleep enough one night that is of course not a big deal. The important thing for me is to not chronically sleep deprive myself. I also notice that I am hungrier if I don’t sleep enough. So, to stay motivated to eat healthy sleep is very important for me!
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