We’ve always assumed there was a reason why junk food sounds better late at night, and researchers at Northwestern University may have found the answer. In the preliminary study, researchers looked at 96 adults (aged 18 to 50) who slept more than 6.5 hours a night (they averaged about 7.5 hours each night) at varying times. The participants wore monitors that measured their sleep and physical activity while completing food diaries for a week.
Once the results began to come in, the researchers discovered that those who went to bed later (on average, they fell asleep at around 12:45 a.m.) ate fewer vegetables and more fast food while also being less physically active than those who go to bed earlier. But, while we’d expect for these fast food-eaters to be more overweight than those who went to bed earlier and ate more vegetables, their body mass index (BMI) and body fat percentages both fell under normal ranges.
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Just as bizarre, Kelly Glazer Baron, PhD, the study’s co-author and assistant professor in neurology at Northwestern University, told Health that the late sleepers also didn’t eat more calories per day than the early sleepers, suggesting that this may be the reason they do not weigh any more despite a poor diet. However, because the calories weren’t as healthy as the early sleepers, there may be another reason why they hadn’t put on any weight. Sleep expert Michael Breus, PhD, told Health that night owls might be genetically programmed with a higher metabolic rate, which might compensate for eating high-fat, high-calorie foods. Further, Breus tells us that late sleepers often find themselves craving carbs due to sleep deprivation, adding that because they’re often up late at night, they have a tendency to eat what is available to them, like fast food.
However, it’s important to note that the study only focused on a short period of time of these individuals’ lives, and researchers are aware that a poor diet and less exercise could lead to weight gain over time. If your favorite TV show airs at 11 or you love sleeping in, don’t fret. Simply focusing on your eating habits and being aware of what you’re snacking on to keep up your physique, even after you hit snooze.