dreaming of food insomnia weight dietI couldn’t resist the truffle gnocchi.  It was aglow with melted cheese and olive oil.  When my husband reached over for a taste, I almost stabbed him with my fork. “Don’t get between me and the gnocchi,” I warned, and he retreated as I sopped up the oil with Tuscan bread.

“I can’t believe I ate the whole thing,” I told myself, echoing the voice of the pajama-clad man of the Alka Seltzer commercial from my youth. (Does anyone else miss that commercial?) But on the walk home, I could not resist a double scoop of the dark chocolate gelato.  I was wearing stretchy leggings, and they were quite forgiving.

“Resistance,” my husband noted, “is futile.”

I brought back an extra four pounds from my trip to Florence visiting my daughter who is doing a semester there, as well as some fantastic truffle oil.  But it turns out there was a legitimate reason for my complete lack of discipline.

It was the jet lag.  According to recent studies, the less you sleep, the fatter you get.  When we are overtired, we get more pleasure from indulging.  It’s real science.

A study led by the University of Colorado Boulder and published last week online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences compared two groups: one whose sleep was restricted to five hours a night, and another group whose sleep was not restricted.  While the volunteers in the sleep-restricted group burned about 5% more calories, they also consumed 6% more calories.  That’s pretty simple math.  Moving to a restricted sleep schedule resulted in weight gain- nearly an average of two pounds in two weeks.

This is important information here, so all of you who were up at 4:00AM last night and are now popping jellybeans while reading this, wake up!   If you are sleep deprived, you are less resistant to unhealthy foods–especially when it comes to sugar and spice and everything nice (well, sugar and salt, for sure).

This is particularly lousy news for women of “a certain age,” who are up at night tossing and turning, tearing off and putting on layers, kicking off covers, listening to snoring spouses, and worrying about everything–including not sleeping.  Now we have something else to worry about: weight gain.

And how I wish I could tell you that was the whole story!  But, alas, it is not.  The news gets worse.

According to a report issued by the Washington Post on March 13, 2013, Disease and Sleep: Recent studies find new links, when we don’t sleep not only are we more likely to eat more, but we may be more susceptible to Alzheimer’s, diabetes, Parkinson’s, and memory and learning issues. Oh, yeah, and we are more likely to have an accident, too.

So all of this makes me wonder…aren’t we better off taking the damn sleeping pill?

I am an “on again-off again” sleeping pill user.  Recently I stopped cold turkey after my husband recorded my iSnore on his iPhone, shortly after I had fallen into one of those lovely, drug-induced deep-sleeps.  He sent the recording to me in an email which I received the next day, the subject of which was “this was you last night.”  Luckily for him, I had slept quite well and did not bash him in the head.

But it did provide a wake-up call that took me off “the pill” again, and I lapsed into a few weeks of unpleasant insomnia.

With the release of these recent studies, I think a little cost/benefit analysis is in order.

On the one hand, insomnia: increased chance of Alzheimer’s, diabetes, Parkinson’s, and memory and learning issues…basic misery and inability to stop at a handful of M&Ms.

On the other hand, chemically induced sleep:   increased chance of chest pain, difficulty breathing, sleep walks, psychotic reactions, addiction, and a host of other possible side effects, but a decrease in overall bitchiness and binge eating.

So excuse me if I choose better living through chemistry.

And if I eat a sleeve of Thin Mints after a good eight hours of beauty rest, at least I’ll know that I am completely to blame.

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