Another crazy ‘health’ post.

July 27th, 2009 by Chris

In my continuing series on over-analyzing the crazy factoids posted at my workplace comes this little gem:

Skimp on sleep, consume more calories!
Staying up late and getting less than 6 hours of sleep can cause cravings and cause you to guzzle down about 200 more calories a night than those who get to sleep earlier.

So at face value, they’re saying that if you stay up late, you’ll be looking for that midnight snack, or as Taco Bell would say, “fourthmeal“.[1] So an extra 200 calories, huh? According to the US Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, National Academies’ Dietary Reference Intake table: a 65 inch male has a daily caloric need of about 2500 calories[2]
Assuming that this is the intake for a day with a ‘normal’ 8 hour sleep period, that extra 200 calories would correspond to an 8% increase.
Of course, you’re awake, so aren’t you burning more calories than you would be asleep? According to Heathline’s Calorie Burn Rate Calculator an average US 35 year old male (190 pounds)[3] burns 60 calories per hour when sleeping, but burns 108 calories simply watching TV. So for the extra two hours, our imaginary average person will burn 96 of those 200 calories just be staying awake. If even 30 minutes of that time is spent in mild exercise such as walking, an additional 168 calories will be burned. In that case, our imaginary person will actually burn a net 64 calories by staying awake.
So the lesson here, as always, is that 200 extra calories isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as it’s balanced with useful physical activity.
FWIW: The NCHS report I cited above, says that we Americans are about an inch taller and 25 pounds heavier than we were 40 years ago. Didn’t I read somewhere[4] that sleeping makes you taller? Maybe it’s time to go for a walk instead of a nap.

  1. Which is apparently a Taco Bell trademark. []
  2. Gross over simplification. []
  3. Mean value from the table linked from CDC National Center for Health Statistics 2004 report. []
  4. Various sources found, none that seemed worth referencing on its own. []

2 Responses to “Another crazy ‘health’ post.”

  1. Heidi Dugan Says:

    Re Footnote #4: you may cite my pediatrician in Pittsburgh. Referring to Emily’s diminutive size, “Don’t worry if she sleeps a lot. When she sleeps, she grows.” Joe and I still quote that in a small not-too-squeaky (as if from baby Emily’s point of view), “When I sleep…. I grow!”

  2. Chris Says:

    Actually, I found a fair amount of literature saying that getting enough sleep is critical to proper growth patterns. It was something about when the human growth hormones are most active.