We all love to eat well at Christmas – but is it good for us?

Of course it is.  It’s one of life’s great pleasures and all that lovely festive food and drink is only for a couple of days after all. However overeating on a regular basis can lead to serious health problems, as it will cause you to have poorer quality, disturbed sleep which can be dangerous.

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The latest research has now proved that sleep loss leads to extra calorie consumption – and the extra weight that is gained in the throat will make you snore, which will of course ruin your sleep and so on…and on…and on.

It’s a vicious circle – and you’re not the only the loser as it can disturb your partner or other family members too.

A study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who don’t get enough sleep consumed an extra 385 calories the following day. The findings are based on research by King’s College London, who also reviewed 11 older studies and compared people who didn’t get enough sleep and those who did and also looked at what they ate afterwards.

Some previous research studies had shown that if you woke in the night, it was quite likely that you’d get out of bed and make yourself a a drink, or more likely have a snack of some sort.

Unlike the ‘midnight munchies’, the research team didn’t find that sleep deprived people necessarily ate more. Instead they found that their choice of food the next day was sometimes different to those who had a healthy amount of sleep. This meant they tended to opt for food that was higher in fat and lower in protein. They didn’t see any change in the amount of carbohydrates they ate.

The result of this change led to an increase in calorie intake, with the risk of unwanted weight gain, because people in the studies didn’t use up any more energy, regardless of their sleep habits.

There may be some truth in the saying ‘early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy and wise’.

Lead author Gerda Pot from the Diabetes and Nutritional Sciences Division at Kings College says in a statement: “The main cause of obesity is an imbalance between calorie intake and expenditure and this study adds to accumulating evidence that sleep deprivation could contribute to this imbalance.

Sleep deprivation followed by increased calorie intake could lead to sustained weight gain over the long term. “Reduced sleep is one of the most common and potentially modifiable health risks in today’s society in which chronic sleep loss is becoming more common,” says Gerda Pot.

One of the main results is heavy snoring due to the excess weight gained on the neckline, and often combined with ageing muscular structure, which allows the throat to close on itself more readily.

Catherine Collins, a registered dietitian who reviews articles for BootsWebMD, says the extra calories will almost certainly come from snack foods. “It will be biscuits, it will be cakes, it will be crisps and savoury snacks that tend to be lower in protein but have more fat – and probably more calories in proportion as well,” she tells us.

She says this is the first review that quantifies the calorific effect from poor sleep. “That is quite a substantial part of your 2,000 calories a day, which is why people are overeating. Three-hundred-and-eighty-five calories – put it in perspective, that’s like 2 packets of crisps, or it’s a decent sized bar of chocolate. It doesn’t seem a lot but here’s more than one snack there.”

The heavy snoring, or even obstructive sleep apnoea, results in oxygen deprivation, and if it is not controlled it has been proved that there is a huge list of potential problems. This includes stroke. Cardiovascular problems, hypertension, diabetes, short attention span, irritability, daytime tiredness and an increase in earlier onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Regardless of this most snorers and sleep apnoea sufferers ignore the problem and don’t prevent or control it by the use of the easily obtained simple oral appliances that are medically approved but need no prescription – they are easily available online at easily payable prices. They are great value when it is considered what they prevent.

Merry Christmas. Enjoy a ‘Silent Night’ – and do it often by acting now to stop snoring and prevent its dangers happening to you.

John Redfern.