Will Sleep Restriction Make You Hungrier?

Sleep is one of the most crucial elements for maintaining good health and well-being.

It’s a process that gives the body and the mind time to wind down and regain balance.

In fact, when you’re sleeping, your body works to restore the immune, nervous, and musculoskeletal systems.

Sleeping helps the brain process memories and information better, as well as regulate mood and cognitive functions.

Therefore, getting an adequate sleep quality of 7-9 hours per night is very important.

Sadly, in today’s world, sleep is often neglected in favor of other activities.

What’s Important

It was found that around 35% of the adults in the USA get less than 7 hours of sleep per night. [1]

This type of pattern leads to the effect called ‘sleep debt’ in which prolonged sleep restriction leads to an accumulation of sleepiness, and eventually to mental and/or physical fatigue.

Sleep debt is very common for people who sleep very little during the 5-day work/school week and then make up for it during the weekends.

Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to various chronic diseases, like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and obesity, as well as overall morbidity.

For these reasons, the Center for Disease Control has recognized sleep deprivation as an important public health issue. [2]

Therefore, it’s only natural that there is a great interest in how repeated exposure to sleep restriction affects waking function.

Previous studies have mostly focused on metabolic functions, but a newly conducted clinical trial has examined the impact of sleep restriction on calorie intake.

The Details

The purpose of the study was to examine the effect of two cycles of sleep restriction on caloric and macro-nutrient intake and late-night eating.

They aimed to discover whether recovery sleep between the two sleep restriction cycles would influence the intake of food.

The participants were healthy adults between the ages of 22-50 years who had no chronic sleep disturbances.

They were divided into 4 groups:

  1. The control group slept for 10 hours each night, from 10 PM to 8 AM;
  2. The second group had one night of recovery sleep between two cycles of sleep restriction;
  3. The third group had three nights of recovery sleep between two cycles of sleep restriction;
  4. The fourth group had five nights of recovery sleep between two cycles of sleep restriction.

The sleep restriction cycle involved five successive nights of sleep from 04:00 AM to 08:00 AM, 4 hrs per night, while the recovery sleep duration was 12 hrs per night, from 10:00 PM to 10:00 AM.

During the study, the participants selected their chosen foods and meals available in the kitchen on the premises at any given time, however, they weren’t permitted caffeinated beverages and chocolate.

All chosen foods were weighed and recorded before consumption.

What Did They Find?

The results from the study were pretty interesting:

  • Regarding caloric intake, the sleep-restricted groups increased caloric intake during the sleep restriction cycles, although the number of calories was the same for each group;
  • When it came to macronutrients, they found that sleep-restricted participants decreased protein consumption, however, the intake of carbs and fat between the two cycles of sleep restriction was significantly increased;
  • The intake of sugar was higher for the groups during the first cycle of sleep restriction;
  • Late-night calorie intake was significantly increased for the sleep-restricted participants.
  • Additionally, it was concluded that humans don’t get accustomed to sleep restriction, no matter how often they do it, and one, three, or five nights of recovery sleep isn’t enough to prevent future consequences from lack of sleep.
  • Bottom Line

    Making up for lack of sleep during the weekends is a common practice, and the results from this study offer an insight into what the body craves during cycles of sleep deprivation.

    Taking everything into account, it’s important to note how much sleep is important and that getting adequate sleep is nothing short of highly recommended.

    Resource: Spaeth, A.M.; Goel, N.; Dinges, D.F. Caloric and Macronutrient Intake and Meal Timing Responses to Repeated Sleep Restriction Exposures Separated by Varying Intervening Recovery Nights in Healthy Adults. Nutrients 2020, 12, 2694. doi: 



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