If you’re trying to lose weight or prevent weight gain, you’d better not stay up late and sleep in, as this increases the risk of putting on fat.
Weight gain is a risk from staying up late each night and then sleeping in.
A Northwestern Medicine study says that the weight gain risk, from these sleeping habits, results from night owls consuming more food in the evening, greater amounts of fast food, and fewer vegetables and fruits.
They tend to weigh more than normal-cycle sleepers. So far, sounds like nothing inherent in going to sleep late and awakening late causes weight gain, but rather, causes or leads to eating habits that are conducive to weight gain.
Another thing that I wondered about, at this point, was the idea that people with bad eating habits who don’t care about health, are more likely to stay up late, sleep in and just gain weight.
In short, I did not see any cause-and-effect relationship with the study. The night owls also drank more sugary sodas – again, which came first, the chicken or the egg?
“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,” explains (in the report) co-lead study author Kelly Glazer Baron, who is a health psychologist and neurology instructor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
Co-lead author Kathryn Reid points out that the extra junk food calories eaten at night may be because there are “less healthful options at night,” though she also adds that night owls may simply prefer more calorie-rich foods.
My question then is: How can there be fewer healthful options at night if your kitchen is stocked with healthful foods?
This sounds more like it has to do with what the night owl purchases at the grocery store, not whether or not Joe’s Vegan Restaurant is open all hours of the night.
“Human circadian rhythms in sleep and metabolism are synchronized to the daily rotation of the Earth, so that when the sun goes down you are supposed to be sleeping, not eating,” says Phyllis Zee, MD, senior study author, professor of neurology, director of the Sleep and Circadian Rhythms Research Program at Feinberg.
“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.”
Now we’re talking, I then reflected, because “metabolism” is mentioned.
Indeed, wayward sleeping habits can disrupt metabolism – the rate at which one burns calories – and cause weight gain.
The study summary didn’t detail this, but as a fitness professional and weight loss expert, I already know the fact that going to bed late cheats the human body out of maximal production of human growth hormone during sleep.
To optimize production of HGH, one should get 7-8 hours of quality sleep between 9 pm and 6 am.
HGH is one of the most powerful, if not the most potent, natural fat-burners. You get shorted on this due to unnatural sleeping habits, and you can forget about optimizing weight loss.
This doesn’t mean that all night shift workers or second-shift workers will gain weight or struggle to keep a lean body.
I used to work a third shift and second shift, and I did not experience weight gain. I still got strenuous workouts in, played tons of volleyball and was conscious of my eating habits.
People who choose second shifts may do so because they are hardcore partiers, not likely to be gym rats who prefer clean eating over junk food eating.
One of my second-shift coworkers, a chunky woman, told me she chose the shift so that she could go clubbing afterwards.
The Northwestern researchers plan on broadening their study to a larger community, to further investigate the effect of staying up late and sleeping in, with metabolism, weight gain and other factors like circadian rhythms.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health.