In the 2004 film “The Machinist,” Trevor Reznik (Christian Bale) questions his sanity after not sleeping for a year. Bale lost a staggering 65 pounds for the role, eating only an apple and a can of tuna a day leading up to filming.
Turns out, to accurately portray an insomniac, Bale should have eaten more, not less, than usual. That’s because there’s growing evidence that a lack of sleep triggers overeating. Researchers reviewed 11 studies with data on 172 people that looked at the connection between sleep deprivation and eating. They found that folks who were short on sleep (getting between three and five and a half hours a night) ate an average of 385 extra calories a day.
Not getting enough Z’s disrupts the balance of your appetite-controlling hormones, increasing levels of ghrelin, the feed-me-now hormone, and decreasing levels of the I’m-full-and-happy hormone, leptin. Other research shows that people who are short on sleep experience big-time psychological rewards from eating and have a higher motivation to seek food. They’re also likely to eat more fat and less protein.
So if you’re trying to get a handle on your calorie intake, make sure to get seven to eight hours of shut-eye nightly. And if you find that you’re short of sleep and you’re hungry, try loading more lean and plant-based protein into your diet. It will help increase leptin sensitivity and regulate your appetite.
Still hungry? Go for a walk and drink more water. No kidding. Thirst satisfaction can substitute for food, and tamp down cravings induced by insomnia.
Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.