Tag Archives: snacks


Tired Businessman With CoffeeYou were up all night to meet a deadline for work or because of the restless night. It is now time for a shower and a shave then out the door. First, stop Starbucks. However, today is a bit different. Today you are compelled to stop at a fast food drive through and get one or two of their breakfast specials or a few apple curlers, which are loaded with calories you would not normally eat.

If this is you, read on.

Gerald E. McGinnis Professor of Sleep Medicine, Harvard Medical School Senior Physician, Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, Departments of Medicine and Neurology, Brigham and Women's Hospital
Gerald E. McGinnis Professor of Sleep Medicine, Harvard Medical School
Senior Physician, Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, Departments of Medicine and Neurology, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

According to Dr. Stuart Quan, MD, “The amount of sleep Americans say they get every night has declined from an average of approximately 8.5 hours in the 1960s to slightly less than 7 hours today. There are probably lots of reasons why, but they likely include 24/7 occupations, prolongation of the “day” with artificial lighting, the use of electronic devices at bedtime (blue-wavelength light from these devices delays sleep onset), and the widespread belief that sleep is less of a priority compared to other activities, whether they are work- or pleasure-related.”

Besides sleeping less, we also tend to weigh more as well. Greater than 30% of adult Americans are obese; this is in comparison to less than 15% of adults in the 1960s. This obesity epidemic has also spread to children; around 17% are considered obese. This is an unsettling trend because obese children are prone to become obese adults.

downloadStrong evidence suggests causality between  a decrease in sleep duration and the increase in obesity. Many large studies involving thousands of adults mostly have found that short sleepers (defined as 5 hours or 6 hours less per night) were as much as 45% more likely to be obese. There is not as much data on children, but in one study, it was found that children who sleep less than 7.5 hours per night had a threefold greater risk of becoming obese over a five-year period.

vending-machine-for-snacks“Studies also demonstrate that short sleepers don’t eat healthfully. Overall, their alcoholdiets have less food variety, a greater percentage of calories from snacks, and higher amounts of sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. Furthermore, they tend to skip the main meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), and tend to snack more. These habits promote weight gain and the eventual development of obesity,” states Dr. Quan.

Dr. Quan goes on to say, “Experimental studies indicate that sleep restriction leads to abnormalities in the processing of blood sugar (glucose) and changes in hormones that control appetite. For example, the hormone ghrelin stimulates appetite, whereas the hormone leptin reduces it. With sleep restriction, levels of ghrelin rise and those of leptin fall, thus leading to an increase in hunger and appetite. Additionally, these studies have observed that sleep-restricted individuals have a greater desire for high-calorie, high-carbohydrate foods.”

“The take-home message is that getting enough sleep is one way to lower your risk for weight gain and obesity. There is a tendency to put on pounds, as one grows older. Inadequate sleep will only worsen this trend. If a person is already overweight or obese, weight loss will be more difficult without adequate sleep. From a societal perspective, the obesity epidemic, with its associated increases in the rates of several chronic conditions (e.g., heart disease, diabetes), places a greater burden on the health care system and contributes to rising health care costs. Adequate sleep deserves to be included with exercise and good nutrition as one of the essentials of good health.” (Quan, 2015)

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Quan, S. M. (2015, October 7). Too little sleep and too much weight: a dangerous duo. Retrieved October 13, 2015, from Harvard Health Publications Harvard Medical School: http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/too-little-sleep-and-too-much-weight-a-dangerous-duo-201510078396?utm_source=SilverpopMailing&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=10.09.2015%20(1)

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