Unable to quit sugar? Your poor sleeping pattern could be the reason

Inadequate sleep is known to trigger a hormone response that increases hunger. On the other hand, the effects of hunger-suppressing hormones are blunted.

Myupchar February 26, 2020 15:34:42 IST
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Unable to quit sugar? Your poor sleeping pattern could be the reason

Getting adequate, uninterrupted sleep is central to our overall well-being. Every day new studies are highlighting the benefits of getting to bed on time, turning off the screens and surrendering to therapeutic slumber. Getting your required hours of shuteye is associated with lower levels of stress, cardiovascular issues and gastrointestinal problems, improved attention, focus and cognition and a greater overall sense of satisfaction. 

Unable to quit sugar Your poor sleeping pattern could be the reason

Representational image. Image by Wokandapix from Pixabay

To underline a far-reaching health effect of sleep, a study published by Columbia University looked at the diets and sleeping patterns of over 500 women to see if their caloric intake was influenced by sleep. The researchers hypothesized that those who consumed calories above the daily recommendations also had poorer sleep patterns.

What were the parameters and findings of the study?

The study followed over 500 women aged between 20-76 for a year. All the participants were required to self-report sleeping patterns as well as dietary information including the types and quantities of food they ate. 

Concerningly, a third of the women in the study reported inadequate amounts of sleep, which means they slept less than 7 hours a day. Further, 25% of women also reported struggling with insomnia. 

The study found that women who were sleep-deprived consumed 500 to 800 calories more on average. Even worse, these calories were in the form of fats, added sugar and caffeine. The diets, even though they were excessive, failed to meet the daily requirements for fibre and grain, which are considered to be the healthier parts of a meal. 

What this suggests is that poor sleep promotes hunger, and specifically for unhealthier foods with high sugar and fat content. 

What do the findings mean?

Sugary foods and those that are high in fat have been linked to type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular issues. Most dietitians will agree that foods loaded with high amounts of added sugar need to be strictly restricted since they are the cause of many modern lifestyle issues. 

It is also a two-way street. Overconsumption of food is also linked with sleeping problems. This means that getting out of poor habits is especially difficult because these behaviours tend to reinforce each other; it is a vicious circle.  

How does sleep affect diet?

Inadequate sleep is known to trigger a hormone response that increases hunger. On the other hand, the effects of hunger-suppressing hormones are blunted.

Further, a lower amount of sleep has been linked to impaired executive function of the brain. It becomes harder to remain rational and make smart decisions for your health when you are impaired by a lack of sleep. The quick high from a sugar-laden snack is the perfect antidote to this and perpetuates the cycle of unhealthy eating.

These novel insights hint at the physiological causes of obesity and being overweight and suggest that losing weight simply isn’t a matter of willpower. 

What can we take from this study?

At the risk of simplifying, a good approach to weight loss and better overall health is one that involves all facets of your life. It is not enough to cut down on food intake or exercise regularly - it is important to also get adequate sleep, focus on your mental health and bring about a balance that is sustainable for your lifestyle. A good starting point is journaling about what you think the barriers to a healthy life for you are and making small, incremental changes to address them.

Read our article on Tips for better sleep for more detailed information.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

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