Sleep skimpers eat almost an extra meal a day

London: It`s known that skimping on sleep can leave you feeling drowsy and slow-witted. Now, a new study has claimed it could significantly increase your hunger pangs
making you to eat almost an extra meal a day.

Researchers at Mayo Clinic in the US found that people who get an hour`s less sleep a day may eat up to more than 500 additional calories, compared to someone getting enough sleep.

In the study, presented at an American Heart Association meeting, the researchers looked at a small group of healthy adults, aged between 18 and 40 years.

For eight nights, half of the volunteers slept a normal amount, while the other half were restricted to two-thirds of their typical hours. Both groups ate as much as they wanted
and whichever foods they wanted.

On average, the so-called "sleep deprived" group slept an hour and 20 minutes less per night, and consumed an average of nearly 550 additional calories -- the equivalent of an extra meal -- per day, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Population studies have already suggested a link between sleep deprivation and growing levels of obesity, but the Mayo team wanted to find evidence that one actually caused the
other by looking at the relationship under laboratory conditions.

Professor Virend Somers, a heart disease consultant and the senior study author, said: "The increase was much more than we had expected."

Sleep deprivation is thought to affect food consumption by reducing production of an appetite-suppressing hormone called leptin, and increasing production of an appetite
stimulant called ghrelin.

However, this study found leptin levels increased and ghrelin levels fell in the sleep deprived. Prof Somers said that might be because these volunteers got a little fatter over the eight days, "and the more fat you have the more leptin you produce".

Dr Max Hirshkowitz, a professor at the Baylor College of Medicine and a member of the National Sleep Foundation, said: "It was a surprising finding, that this increased leptin, so
they wound up concluding that the ghrelin and leptin changes are not coming from the sleep deprivation, but from the fat."

"The hormones are probably responding to the feeding behaviour," Hirshkowitz added.
The study authors emphasised that their research was a pilot one, however, it did provide some hard evidence that cutting back on sleep actively increased appetite and made
people fatter.

"Many young people spend hours at night using technology, on websites like Facebook, which is stopping them from sleeping enough. Is that having an impact on obesity? It may be the case," Prof Somers conclued.