Overeating and not getting enough sleep seem to be a match made in heaven according to a recent study done at Columbia University. This study was done by Marie-Pierre St-Onge, PhD, and colleagues at the New York Obesity Research Center.

A person short on sleep tends to make poor choices. “Short sleep may make you more susceptible to overeating,” St-Onge tells WebMD via email. “Keep that in mind when trying to manage your weight.”

In order to get the best results from the study, those who participated had to be kept in a controlled environment. These 13 women and 13 men were in this environment for six days and on two different occasions. In order to really understand the link between lack of sleep and judgment of food choices, the participants were given nine hours of sleep a night during one of their stays. On the other one, they were given four hours of sleep a night.

As part of the study, the men and women were kept on a strict diet the first four days to monitor what they were eating. Finally, on the fifth day, they were given permission to eat anything they wanted.

On that fifth day, it was recorded that the participants consumed around 300 more calories when they were sleep deprived compared to when they were well rested. Most of those extra calories came from fat, especially saturated fat.

The results from the study revealed that women ate more calories while sleepy compared to men. On average, women who were tired ate 328.6 calories, while tired men indulged in 262.7 extra calories.

The researchers suggest that this may have shed some light on the link between obesity and sleep deprivation.

“Our data show that reducing sleep increases energy and fat intakes, which may explain some of the association observed between sleep and obesity,” St-Onge and colleagues conclude. “If sustained, the dietary choices made by individuals undergoing short sleep would predispose to obesity and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.”