Yet another thing is working against you in your quest for an itty bitty waist (but probably helping you succeed at having a round thing in other people's faces): your sleeping habits. Everyone has different sleep needs, but the average is between 7 and 9 hours a night, and even getting an hour less than you need can have consequences on your circumference. Unfortunately, not everyone can catch enough shuteye to keep themselves beauty sleep-fresh — and that's especially true if you're working long hours at multiple, stressful jobs. Sound familiar, Modern Woman?
New research backs up the other million studies that say your all night partying and slutting around town/work and school commitments are turning you into a chubosaurus. In the experiment, 16 test subjects (both men and women) were allowed to sleep
a luxurious just five hours a night.
They locked their 16 test subjects, one by one, in a calorimeter room, which measures every bit of energy that a person burns. When the subjects were allowed to sleep just five hours a night, they burned more energy than when they were allowed to sleep for nine hours a night.
"The amount of energy they burned was equivalent to doing water aerobics for 25 minutes," says Kenneth Wright, a physiology researcher at the University of Colorado and a co-author of the study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Burning more calories sure sounds like an upside to sleep deprivation. But here's the downside: Those sleepy subjects also showed less self-control when presented with three abundant meals and snacks daily.
When well-rested, the women had "more food restraint," Wright says. The men proved less strong-willed. They chowed down, gaining weight even when getting plenty of sleep.
When sleep deprived, the women lost that restraint. Both men and women ate more. They did that while ignoring signals from hormones that typically tell the brain that the stomach is full.
TL;DR: While sleep deprivation sounds like an excellent way to lose weight in the short term, it's untenable in the long term because of increased pie eating.
In practice, that meant participants routinely skipped breakfast and ate much more carby and fatty foods at night. In just five days, they gained almost two pounds each.
The best cure? "Sleep has to be a priority," says Wright.
Realllllllly??? You don't say!
I'm fairly positive none of us were under the impression that sleeping for two hours a night and mainlining delicious bon bon juice is the best recipe for health. The problem, of course, is that sometimes we don't have control over our schedules — or our stress levels when it comes to our schedules and sleeping situations.
I work several jobs, including one that keeps me sitting on my ass deep into the night (doing something I love! I'm not complaining! Right now!). It's a choice I made, and one I'd make again, but it comes at a price. Because I work two other jobs, I often go to sleep at 1am, only to get up at 6am the next day. I regularly find my hair brush in the fridge, and try to start my car with a tampon.*
But I'm lucky; really, really lucky. I have a safe place to sleep, and I'm generally very happy at my jobs. For others, working several jobs at odd hours isn't a choice at all, it's a necessity. I have a friend who works two jobs because her ex-husband doesn't pay alimony, and I know several couples who work multiple jobs and never see each other just so they can pay rent. It's yet another way in which our society is not set up for success of people living below the poverty line — and many who are barely above it.
And that doesn't even get into the shitty quality of sleep people in stressful situations endure. Worrying about where your next meal is coming from, or whether your children are safe where you're living — those are things that can lead to a very poor night's rest. Which, in turn, can lead to a diet that's insufficient in many ways.
We're told to get enough sleep and eat properly, but it's all tied so closely to survival, it's hard to make your 8-plus hours a priority. Sometimes we need to sacrifice our most basic needs just to make it through the day, and for many poor people, that's just a way of life. When you spend all day (and most of the night) trying to minimally fulfill the bottom level on the hierarchy of needs, worrying about anything else is inconsequential. When you're worrying about providing food and shelter, sometimes you just have to do the best you can — and that could mean you don't have the luxury of worrying about getting in your five alive.
The rich get richer, and the poor get blamed for not being rich — and for getting fat, apparently. But really, that's the least of our fucking priorities.
*clean. Although I'm willing to sell you a dirty one for the right price!
Image Jim Cooke