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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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Less ZZZs, More LBs?


Hi there. Well, if you read yesterday’s blog you know that for me, the end of last week wasn’t happy, happy, joy, joy. And then, my back went out. Like many people, I have chronic back problems, and unfortunately, the long pain-free streak I had been enjoying came to a screeching halt this past weekend.

So, what does that have to do with food and nutrition? Well, when my back is out, I get very little sleep (if you’ve lived with back pain you know what I mean – it’s hard to get comfortable and difficult to relax). And recent studies have linked a lack of sleep to a higher body mass index (BMI, a measure of weight for height).

Scientists believe that too little sleep boosts a hormone level that ups appetite, and studies have found that people who sleep less tend to eat more. One recent study found that subjects who slept 4 hours per night (vs. the ideal 8) experienced a 24% spike in hunger. And, sleepyheads tend to make less healthy food choices. After just 2 nights with too little sleep, research participants craved more sugary, salty, starchy foods, and fewer fruits and veggies. As you might expect, this hunger/craving combo is a recipe for weight gain.

Now, it’s important to note two things. First, these studies indicate an association, not a cause and effect. Not all sleep-deprived people gain weight. My weight’s been stable for well over a decade, and I’ve had far too many sleepless nights (especially when my back pain flares up). And second, getting more sleep won’t guarantee weight loss. But that said, adequate sleep is one of the most important health-related goals you can aim for. For more info on the importance of sleep, click here.

Time for today’s fun facts:
-We spend one third of our lives sleeping
-You can sleep with your eyes open
-A new bundle of joy typically causes moms and dads to lose 400-750 hours of sleep before baby’s 1st birthday
-Turning up the radio or rolling down the window won’t keep you awake if you’re driving drowsy
-Alcohol may make you sleepy, but it increases nighttime awakenings and causes poor quality sleep
-Kitty cats spend 13-16 hours per day in slumber

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Sass – ahhhh, if I only I could sleep half as well as Toonces!
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About the Author


MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N

Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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