Women quite understandably gain weight during and even after pregnancy, largely due to hormonal changes in their bodies. But beyond the odd "dad bod" joke, there hasn't been much attention given to why expectant fathers also experience weight gain that tends to stick with him as their children grow up. As it turns out, the answer has almost everything to do with sleep.
According to Men's Health, men actually have a five percent higher chance of suffering from obesity if they're sleep deprived, which means getting less than six hours of shut-eye each night. A restless night's sleep results in eating way more calories than normal the next day, largely from sugary and fatty foods, which can seriously help pack on the pounds as the days, weeks, months, and even years go by.
For new dads and dads-to-be, weight gain is a serious public health issue, Research Digest reported. In fact, one study found that men who have children weigh on average about 14 pounds more than those who do not.
The science here is all about hormones. Fatigue increases the hormone called ghrelin in our bodies, which is also commonly recognized as the "hunger hormone" and for good reason, too. According to the Hormone Health Network, ghrelin quite literally controls our appetite and our ability to store fat in our bodies. Any sort of increase in this tricky hormone is what compels people to seek out all those little extra snacks during the day or take a bit more than a healthy helping at each meal.
"How we sleep can influence what we eat, and vice versa," Brandon Marcello, PhD, told Men's Health. "Sleep deprivation impairs our bodies' ability to metabolize carbohydrates. This impairment causes us to crave carbohydrates, but more specifically junk food."
Marcello also emphasized the importance of sleep and explained that an insufficient amount of sleep over long periods of time can alter hormone levels to favor fat storage. So the perfect amount of sleep is key to maintaining a healthy body weight for new fathers. But how can someone help improve their own sleep patterns? These are some helpful tips, as outlined in Men's Health.
First, cut back on your caffeine intake by calling it quits on the coffee and energy drinks by the noon hour. Even if you've only had a few cups throughout the day, caffeine can actually linger in your body for up to eight hours and keep your brain awake even while you're sleeping.
Next, stop working and give yourself a break when you can. An overworked brain makes for a restless sleep, so try relaxing with a book or other quiet activity before bed. That being said, don't be tempted to "relax" by spending more time in front of your phone.
Turning off all your screens, including the TV and computer, a few hours before bed can immensely improve your sleep. The light that these screens give off actually trick brains into becoming more alert and prevent them from reaching the deep stages of sleep that help make us feel more rested when we wake up.
Lastly, it's a good idea to go slow once you've woken up in the morning. It's not just what you do before bed that helps decide how you'll feel the next day. Don't be so quick to reach for the smartphone or turn on the T.V. again. Waiting at least 30 minutes after wakeup to begin indulging in technology again will help immensely.
While having a newborn baby typically inhibits the amount of sleep a new dad will get anyway, he can at least help himself out by maintaining healthy sleeping habits for those nights when he isn't woken up by a fussy baby.