The next time you decide to stay awake to watch your favourite midnight soap or reach out for that cup of coffee post dinner you might want to think again. Staying awake for long hours can take a toll on health and may lead to weight gain.
A study conducted among 68,000 women recently at the Case Western Reserve University in the US found that those who sleep less than five hours a night gain more weight over time and are more likely to become obese than those who sleep seven hours a night.
According to experts, a person suffering from sleep deprivation tends to be hungrier the next day, and it takes more food to make them feel full.
They also gravitate towards sweeter, starchier or saltier foods typically with higher calories. Over time, this leads to an accumulation of higher levels of body fat, explaining why many people have such a difficult time losing weight when they don't sleep well.
"We lead such busy and stressful lives that going to bed at a reasonable time is no longer a priority. Research done in recent years shows a strong link between lack of sleep and obesity and also confirms the association between sleep debt and an assortment of health problems such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and diabetes among others," said Himanshu Garg, a consultant at Medanta Medicity in Gurgaon.
According to the study, when a person sleeps, the body uses the time to accomplish what it cannot during waking hours. This includes regeneration of damaged cells, repairing tissue, allowing the mind to mend itself and an overall renewal process for the entire body so that upon wakening, a person feels fresh and ready to tackle the day.
However, when sleep deprivation takes place, the body responds negatively in the form of fatigue, irritability, emotional problems, weight gain and poor health.
In the long run such a cumulative build-up of sleep deprivation becomes more serious and has potentially life threatening consequences.
"What many do not know is that the body does not burn as many calories when it is functioning on less sleep and thus hoards calories as fat which makes our weight loss goals more difficult than they need to be," said Garg.