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Sometimes I work late. Really late. Like 3 or 4 a.m. late. I like writing at night. I pay for it the next day, though. Sure, I feel tired, but I am also starving. It’s like I can’t eat enough during the day. I always thought it was a coincidence, but I recently found a study that proves it’s not in my head. In fact, there’s science behind my uptick in caloric intake. According to a recent study out of the University of Colorado at Boulder, less sleep leads to more eating — and weight gain. According to Kenneth Wright, director of Colorado University at Boulder’s Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory who is also the study lead, “Just getting less sleep, by itself, is not going to lead to weight gain,” Wright said. “But when people get insufficient sleep, it leads them to eat more than they actually need.”

Wright and his team set up a study that asked participants to sleep up to nine hours each night for three nights in a row. Then they split the people into two groups: “…one that spent five days with only five hours to sleep in and one that spent five days with nine hours of sleep opportunity. In both groups, participants were offered larger meals and had access to snack options throughout the day ranging from fruit and yogurt to ice cream and potato chips. After the five-day period, the groups switched.”

Anyone who was sleep deprived ended up eating a ton of after-dinner snacks, taking in about 6 percent more calories overall. Everyone, when they were tired, gained weight, say the study authors.

While it would be good to sleep eight hours a night, I know that’s not realistic for me or everyone else. The study authors didn’t provide any tips to beat the tired munchies, but I’d think that just knowing that you’re hungry because you’re tired may mean that it will be easier to skip the chips and ice cream and drink a glass of water or grab a piece of fruit instead.

Have you ever had the hunger munchies? What did you do to avoid over-eating? I’d like to know.

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