Are Your Bad Sleeping Habits Making you Put On Weight?

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"It sounds logical that if you aren't sleeping well, you might be eating more to compensate for the time you're awake and bored," says Jessica Alexander, spokesperson for The Sleep Council, when HuffPost UK Lifestyle asked her about the latest sleep study published by Science Daily.

According to the study, which was conducted by the psychology department of the University of Pennsylvania, healthy adults with late bedtimes and chronic sleep problems may be more susceptible to weight gain because they are likely to consume more calories.

The study, which appears in the July issue of the journal SLEEP, was conducted in the Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. It looked at 225 healthy, non-obese individuals, ranging in age from 22-50 years.

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An interesting finding was that those who spent only four hours in bed from the hours of 4am to 8am for five consecutive nights gained more weight than those who were in bed for 10 hours.

Clearly there are two separate groups however - those who choose to stay up late and those who are suffering from sleep problems. If you are choosing to stay up late - and a key reason for most people is that they are watching TV until the wee hours. In 2011, a study found that people who stay up late tend to have poorer eating habits and a higher BMI (Body Mass Index).

Putting on a few pounds may not seem like a big deal, but if you are tipping towards an overweight size, it can increase the risk of sleep apnea, which is a common sleep disorder that severely impacts the quality of sleep. It is a condition that causes interrupted breathing during sleep and subsequently leaves you with little energy to do much during the day.

So how much sleep should you have? Last year, findings revealed that 8 hours could be an unnatural amount of sleep, with the BBC publishing a report about historian Roger Ekirch of Virginia Tech, who drew together a report drawn from 16 years of research, revealing a wealth of historical evidence that humans used to sleep in two distinct chunks.

Professor Colin Espie, co-founder of Sleepio and professor in the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neuroscience at the University of Oxford says: "The number of hours’ sleep you need is as individual as your shoe size. Don’t assume you need the often-quoted 7-8 hours; in fact, a shorter sleep may mean a better quality sleep."

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For those who struggle to sleep at all. the answer is more complex. Jessica advises: "There isn’t a quick fix and you have to start by looking at your day time and waking habits. A lot of people do that by keeping a sleep diary. If you are finding that you can't sleep properly, a more immediate solution might be - like anything to do with eating - to plan in advance. Keep healthy food to snack on, and also look at your eating habits, as that may be part of the solution to improving your condition. If you have foods that help release serotonin, that in turn releases melatonin which helps you to sleep."

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