New study links lack of sleep to overeating

By Teaira Haynes |

Sleep deprivation comes with the territory of being a college student and while many are willing to give up a good night’s sleep to pull an all nighter in the library, a new study released by the American Heart Association shows they could be sacrificing more than just Z’s.

In the study, presented at the annual Epidemiology and Prevention/Nutrition Physical Activity and Metabolism conference, researchers found that people who were sleep-deprived ate more than 500 additional calories daily, linking lack of sleep to overeating.

Sleep deprivation has proven in the past to be a problem amongst college students.

When students choose to stay up later, the lack of sleep can cause “fatigue, anxiety, depression, decreased attention and tolerance and affects the immune system,” said Holly Doucette, certified nurse practitioner at Flagler College.

Doucette said she recommends a minimum of eight hours of sleep for college students.

However, eight hours of sleep is harder to come by for some, as classes become more demanding and the work load gets harder.

Senior Jim McNeil said before coming to Flagler College, he had a pretty regular sleep schedule.

“I’d get to bed between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. and wake up at 7 a.m. So between six and eight hours,” said McNeil, a graphics design major.

But all that changed, he said, as he took on the new responsibilities that came with college.

“I have pulled more all nighters the last 2 years than in the rest of my life,” said McNeil. “Junior year finals week I woke up Sunday and didn’t sleep until Wednesday afternoon.”

Darq-Amber Neimark, a Flagler College sophomore, has also experienced a change in her sleeping patterns as well as noticed the affects it’s had on her eating habits.

“College has absolutely obliterated my sleeping patterns. It’s almost impossible to get to bed at a reasonable hour with my course load. And of course I eat more when I’m exhausted,” said Neimark.

Doucette isn’t surprised that lack of sleep can cause people to overeat.

“If you’re awake more hours in the day your body needs energy. Food gives the body that energy, especially carbs,” she said.

One study found that sleep deprivation fluctuates the levels of ghrelin and leptin, two hunger hormones that tell the body when it’s hungry and when it’s full. When someone is deprived of sleep it increases their level of ghrelin, an appetite-stimulating hormone, and decreases their level of leptin, the hormone released by fat cells to make someone feel full. Scientist believe the effects may lead to overeating and weight gain.

Although this new research gives students one more reason to get more sleep, it’s a luxury that some just can’t afford.

Lindsey Rodea, a sophomore majoring in sociology with a double minor in psychology and criminology, said she’s experienced some of the earlier symptoms of sleep deprivation like fatigue and lack of focus.

“I feel like I’m always saying to people, ‘oh sorry I’m out of it I’m so tired,’ but I have to get stuff done before the next day,” she said.

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