Here is an intriguing headline found in an article in the New York Times wellness blog. According to the article research has been conducted on a group of college freshmen and it confirms the old wive’s tale that kids put on five to ten new pounds in the first semester away from home at college. Wonder why?
A study in the journal Behavioral Sleep Medicine looked at the sleep habits of first-semester freshmen. Researchers followed 132 first-year students at Brown University who kept daily sleep diaries. After nine weeks, more than half of them had gained nearly six pounds.
Ok, so 132 students are away from home for the first time, and their altered sleep habits occur during the same time period as gaining new weight.
Now new research suggests that an underlying cause for the weight gain may be the students’ widely vacillating patterns of sleep.
The ‘underlying cause’ of weight gain may be changing sleep patterns? Perhaps the good writers at the Times do not understand the meaning of the word ’cause.’ Cuts cause bleeding. Staying awake does not cause weight gain.
Here is what the actual study had to say about their results:
Later average bedtime during the workweek, in hours, from adolescence to adulthood was associated with an increase in BMI over time (b = 0.035 kg/m2 per min later bedtime per 6 years; standard error = 0.016; t = 2.12, degrees of freedom = 3,238, P < 0.05). These results remained significant after controlling for demographic characteristics and baseline BMI. Although sleep duration, screen time, and exercise frequency did not attenuate the relationship between workday bedtime and BMI over time, fast-food consumption was recognized as a significant partial mediator of the relationship between bedtimes and BMI longitudinally. (Bold not in original)
I see these results in a different light than they do at the Times. When I eat a lot of carbs, lets say a burger, fries and super size Coke at McDonald’s, I have trouble sleeping. It takes longer to fall asleep because I am burning carbs, I don’t sleep well as I toss and turn all night, and I tend to wake up sooner. All the carbs will make me fat, and I can’t sleep. I think that the problem is kids are away from home and feeding themselves. They aren’t making great choices of foods, and they aren’t sleeping well on top of getting fat.
Times, the underlying CAUSE of weight gain cannot physically be lack of sleep. The CAUSE must be a change in diet, with more of the diet coming from carbohydrate. If you want your kids to not gain weight then make sure they are used to eating breakfast meats for their first meal of the day. If your kids are used to finding low carb meals then they will not gain weight no matter what happens to the sleep pattern. Most kids don’t have this knowledge though, because most parents don’t. If the Times would look into the actual cause of weight gain then maybe something could be done about it.
So in my opinion, the horse of weight gain is not spurred on by lack of sleep, but the lack of sleep and weight gain are spurred on by eating more carbs.