You may have felt it in your stomach after a long night’s work (or play), but now you can keep it in mind. Getting a scant night’s sleep can trick you into hunger, specifically for snacks and carbohydrates.
It’s an idea that’s been circulating for some time in health circles that people getting less than seven hours of sleep each night are significantly more likely to be overweight or obese. Two recent studies back up this finding, though, with specifics on different amounts of sleep, and the resulting mini-binge the next day. In one study, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition measured how much food a group of men ate after first an eight-hour night, then just four.
After the night of abbreviated sleep, the men consumed more than 500 extra calories (roughly 22 percent more) than they did after eight hours of sleep. A University of Chicago study last year had similar findings in both men and women: subjects took in significantly more calories from snacks and carbohydrates after five and a half hours of sleep than after eight and a half hours.
It might help to know, when you’re very groggy, that the craving for peanut-butter-filled pretzels could be your mind playing tricks on you. It’s probably better to know about snacks that do little harm.