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Weight Loss

From the effects of the hormone cortisol to the role of genetics in weight loss, this category is packed with everything that you need to know about losing weight the healthy way.

Do I Eat More When Tired?

While the act of balancing calories is mostly attributed to nutritional intake and exercise output, sleep is another factor to juggle. In fact, sleep has shown to affect a healthy metabolism, and may even cause increased calorie consumption when deprived of it!


Eating is vital for life. So is adequate sleep.

But sleep is becoming a growing health concern, as almost 30 percent of adults are sleeping less than 6 hours. This falls short of recommendation of 7 to 9 hours of sleep issued by the National Sleep Foundation.

Interestingly, too, obesity rates are corresponding. About 33 percent of the U.S. population are considered overweight. Upwards of 66 percent are considered to be overweight or obese.

While diet and exercise tend to be the most common risk factors for weight gain, we should not sleep on others...

Find out why you may be eating more when tired, along with how to burn more calories while sleeping.

Do I Eat More When I'm Tired?

Lack of sleep may increase calorie consumption. The National Sleep Foundation reports those who are sleep deprived consumed an average 549 additional calories each day. These individuals slept one hour and 20 minutes less than the control group each day.

Generally, it requires a surplus of 3,500 calories to gain a pound. Over a week, this additional 549 calories can lead to gaining over 1 pound!

But how can lack of sleep lead to greater calorie intake? These 5 reasons explain why you may be eating more when tired.

5 Reasons Why You Eat More When You're Tired

1. You feel the desire or need for quick energy.
If a 20-minute nap is out of reach, you may be grabbing for sugary, caffeinated drinks or snacks instead. When the body is deprived of sleep, it naturally kicks in cravings toward more simple carbs high in sugar.

Sweet sodas, cappuccinos, and donuts are often reached for to supply the body with quick energy. However, these "sugar highs" may last a mere 30 to 45 minutes and lead to energy crashes.

Interestingly, too, some studies do show people consume more carbs if feeling tired. Research from the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found no change in carb intake, but increases in fat and protein.

But regardless of the source, sleep deprivation causes the drive to consume more calories. If wondering what to eat for energy when tired, try these healthier alternatives.

2. Sleep deprivation alters hunger hormones.
Hunger hormones, also known as leptin and ghrelin, work to control appetite. Ghrelin helps stimulate hunger while induce leptin induces satiety.

But sleep deprivation can disturb the efficiency of hunger hormones. This causes reductions in leptin and increases in ghrelin, subsequently growing the risk of excessive food intake.

A study published in Obesity further reiterated elevations in ghrelin levels is associated with higher calorie consumption. What's more, snack intake was primarily in the form of carbohydrates.

3. Lack of sleep often disrupts brain activity.
Aside from hormones, brain disruptions may lead to inhibitions in good decision-making. In a study published in Nature Communications, sleep-deprived individuals preferred high-calorie foods compared to when they were well-rested.

With the use of brain scans, researchers noticed altered activity in parts of the brain. Sleep-deprived individuals had lesser responses in the cortical area of the frontal lobe, the brain portion that regulates decision-making. They also exhibited intensive activation in the amygdala, the portion responsible regulating basic emotions.

Such altered brain activities help researchers explain why people make more poor dietary choices and eat more when fatigued.

4. The effects of being overtired heightens emotional responses.
The cycle of stress and insufficient sleep can be vicious. Stress often keeps the brain from quieting down come bedtime, while emotions are likely to be heightened following a restless night.

To compensate for such emotions, some individuals turn to food as a comfort mechanism. Most tend to desire and crave fat and carb-laden sources.

5. The sleepless cycle can form unhealthy behaviors.
The continuous, sleepless cycle may start forming small, unhealthy behaviors that can ultimately transpire into poor, lifelong habits.

For instance, you may order a large, sugary coffee the next morning instead of a smaller size if tired. And if you stay up late the next night, you may oversleep and miss out on consuming a nutritious breakfast.

Before you realize, you are eating one large meal daily. And not to mention, snacking on calorie-dense foods to supply energy for a 12-hour shift.

The bottom line is this: You cannot let life get in the way of your sleep hygiene. Not only does sleep directly affect physical health, but emotional and mental well-being.

How to Burn Calories While Sleeping

You may be wondering, "Does sleeping lead to calorie burn?" Simply answered, yes!

From breathing lungs to digesting foods, the body is always burning calories to keep vital physiological processes running. However, you may burn calories while sleeping by...

...focusing on deep sleep.

Deep sleeping can result to greater caloric burn than simply lying in bed awake. A study found men lost over three times as much weight over eight hours of sleep than eight hours lying awake.

Focus on deep sleep by shutting off all electronics at least two hours leading up to bed. Also turn off the lights and cozy up in a comfortable bed with supportive pillows. Sleeping in a cool climate can also burn additional calories, as the body must work harder to regulate body temperature.

...increasing activity levels.

Being active throughout the day not only helps facilitate a better night's rest, but can help burn more calories while sleeping. In addition to that "afterburn" following vigorous exercise, add strength training to stimulate muscle growth.

Each pound of fat burns two calories daily, but every pound of muscle requires about six calories to sustain itself! With regular strength training, promote and sustain muscle mass with these 10 best post-workout foods.

Written By Christy Zagarella, MS, RDN. Published on November 07, 2012. Updated on April 17, 2019.


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