It’s no secret that being sleep deprived is bad for you: Not only do you feel like crap the next day, not getting enough Z’s on the regular has been linked to weight gain. And now, researchers have an idea of exactly how much more you eat when you slack on sleep.
A new meta-analysis of 11 small studies, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found people who didn’t get enough sleep ate an average of 385 calories more than usual the next day. Damn, Gina.
The researchers also found that the study participants didn’t end up moving more, i.e. burning those extra cals after they got a bad night of sleep, so it’s pretty damn likely that those 400 or so extra calories would end up contributing to weight gain.
It’s obvious that the study participants weren’t following their normal eating habits when they were wiped. But in addition to downing more calories, participants in the 11 studies ate significantly more fat and less protein while drowsy.
So why does a messed up sleep sched make you feel like eating the world? The study authors say that previous research suggests that missing sleep can screw with your hormones, specifically leptin and ghrelin, which are in charge of your appetite. However, this study analysis finds that less sleep may “heighten the motivation to seek food for reward,” the study authors write. In other words, your favorite burger joint starts to look sexier than usual, and when you bite into your double bacon with cheese, you feel like you won the lottery.
Of course, everyone has off nights for sleep, and it’s understandable that this may happen from time to time. But research from Gallup shows that 40 percent of people get less than the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep a night. And, if you’re regularly eating 385 calories extra a day, that can lead to weight gain (about one pound in nine days) and a higher risk of developing a host of diseases like Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. All bad news.
Based on their findings, researchers say it may be worth looking into the sleep habits of people who struggle to lose weight. Bottom line: If you can, try to get seven to nine hours of sleep a night. When you can’t (because…life), just know that you’re probably going to be tempted to eat more junk than usual, and work hard to fight that urge. Your waistline—and your health—will thank you.