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SHU weights in on sleep and obesity

A recent study from the University of Chicago reveals that a lack of sleep can lead to an increase in appetite and a desire for unhealthy foods. Diane Lynch, interim director of Health Services, said in an email interview that she has seen some studies done on the correlation between sleep deprivation and obesity. She said studies showed a link between a lack of sleep and weight gain when students had less than 7 hours of sleep. “One theory is that lack of sleep may affect the levels of two hormones which are responsible for appetite regulation,” Lynch said. The two hormones that affect appetite regulation are Ghrelin and Leptin. The published study in early March was conducted by comparing nights of normal sleep versus nights of restricted sleep in young adults over 24 hour periods, according to the March 1, 2016 volume of the journal Sleep. A normal night of sleep is defined as 8.5 hours while a night of restricted sleep is 4.5 hours. Hunger, appetite, and food intake were assessed in the study. Those who participated in the study reported increases in hunger and appetite. Joseph Rodrigues, a freshman accounting major, said that he sometimes feels sleep deprived. “I stay up too much,” he said. Rodrigues estimated that he gets on average 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. Rodrigues added that he tends to eat unhealthy food like pizza. Lynch said that the freshman 15 is a myth that is covered by the media. She said this is a problem in some individuals, especially women, because the fear of this weight gain can trigger fluctuat ing eating patterns and unhealthy diets. “It’s important to realize that weight gain is not an inevitable part of going to college,” Lynch said. According to Lynch, statistics show that freshmen nationwide gain from 3 to 6 pounds during this first year of college but, this varies according to a student’s residential status. Lynch said that those who live in off campus housing gain closer to 6 pounds, while those who live on campus are more likely to see a 3 pound gain in weight. Students who commute are not likely to see any weight gain, she said. Lynch added that students who are concerned about their weight, diet or have exercise questions can talk to a healthcare provider in Health Services. There are healthy and unhealthy options for students to choose from at Seton Hall, but ultimately it is up to each student to choose whether to eat healthy or not. Healthier options can be found in the commuter cafeteria at Leafs and Grains for sandwiches, wraps and salads. There are also fruit and vegetable options located at Pirate Express and Pirate’s Cove. There may be a correlation between choosing unhealthy foods and a student not having a sufficient amount of sleep, as the study said. Lynch said that students should minimize eating fried, processed and fast food. Health Services encourages students to eat a healthy diet and get at least 20 minutes of exercise most days of the week, Lynch added. “It’s important you make your exercise an activity you enjoy doing, Lynch said. “Whether it be the gym, yoga, getting involved in a sport or just walking.” Samantha Todd can be reached at


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