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Sleeping Late Could Be Wrecking Your Diet

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The early bird may get the worm, but did you know those early risers also tend to eat healthier foods and work out more? A new study shows that people who stay up late at night and then sleep late in the mornings tend to eat more junk food and are less physically active.

Sleeping in late might feel great after a long night at the bar, but clocking those hours of sleep late into the day may be impacting your waistline. A preliminary study presented at the meeting of Associated Professional Sleep Societies suggests people who sleep late are more likely to make bad food choices and get less exercise than people who rise and shine at an earlier hour.

Northwestern University researchers conducted a study with 96 adults, ranging in age from 18 to 50 years old. On average, these study participants reported sleeping approximately 7.5 hours of sleep each night. To study their sleep and food habits, the participants wore monitors and completed food diaries for one week.

Within that group of 96, the night owls hit the sheets around 12:45 a.m. and also were more likely to eat fewer vegetables, take in more fast food, and were less physically active than the early risers in the group. It would seem that conclusion would also point to weight gain for the night owls, but here’s where the researchers were surprised.

Despite going to bed later and sleeping in later, the night owls' body mass indexes (BMI) and body fat percentages were both normal. Even though they ate different foods and slept in the next morning, they didn’t consume more calories than the early risers. Sleep expert Michael Breus, PhD, author of the upcoming book The Power of When, has a theory: “Night owls might genetically be programmed with a higher metabolic rate that makes up for eating high-fat, high-calorie foods,” Breus explained to Health.

This study is just the first of many sleep studies the group of researchers are conducting. A metabolism comparison of early risers and night owls might be next. The researchers also point out that this study was only a week long, which gives a minimal ability to study weight gain accurately.

The important takeaway for those night owls who like to snooze the alarm and spend the night binging on Orange Is the New Black? Sleeping in is still okay, just as long as you are eating right and getting physically active each day.

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