“Night Owls” at Risk for Gaining Weight

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Are you one of those people who enjoy staying up until the wee hours of the night and then sleeping in the next day? According to a new study, you’re at risk for gaining weight.

"When the sun goes down you are supposed to be sleeping, not eating," said Dr. Phyllis Zee, a professor of neurology and director of the Sleep and Circadian Rhythms Research Program at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “When sleep and eating are not aligned with the body's internal clock, it can lead to changes in appetite and metabolism, which could lead to weight gain." 

The study, published in the journal Obesity, studied 51 adults. Twenty-three of the adults were late sleepers, people who hit the sack at an average time of 3:45 a.m. and woke up around 10:45 a.m., while 28 were normal sleepers, men and women who went to sleep at 12:30 a.m. and woke up around 8:00 a.m. (Did these people not have jobs?). The participants recorded their eating and sleep habits in logs for at least seven days, and they also wore a wrist actigraph which monitors sleep and activity cycles. Both groups averaged 7 – 7.5 hours of sleep per night. The results?

The late sleepers consumed an average of 248 more calories per day than the normal sleepers. They also drank more sodas (for the caffeine perhaps?), ate twice as much fast food (what else is open at 2 a.m.?) and ate half as many fruits and vegetables.

While 248 extra calories may not sound like a whole lot, study co-author Kelly Glazer Baron says they can quickly add up.

"The extra daily calories can mean a significant amount of weight gain – two pounds per month – if they are not balanced by more physical activity," she said in a news release.

So what can overweight men and women learn from this study? Go to bed earlier!

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