WEDNESDAY, March 23 (HealthDay News) -- People of normal weight eat more when they sleep less, a small new study finds.

Columbia University researchers discovered that sleep-deprived adults ate almost 300 calories more a day on average than those who got enough sleep. And the extra calories mostly came from saturated fat, which can spell trouble for waistlines.

Women's diets seemed to be the most impacted by lack of sleep. They ate an average of 329 more calories a day if they weren't well-rested, while men ate 263 more calories on average.

The researchers came to their conclusions after following 13 men and 13 women of normal weight. They monitored the eating habits of the participants as they spent six days sleeping four hours a night and then six days sleeping nine hours a night (or the reverse).

The findings were scheduled to be presented Wednesday at the American Heart Association scientific sessions, held in Atlanta.

"If sustained, the dietary choices made by people undergoing short sleep could predispose them to obesity and increased risk of cardiovascular disease," the researchers wrote in an American Heart Association news release.

Experts note that research presented at meetings has not been subjected to the same type of rigorous scrutiny given to research published in peer-reviewed medical journals.

More information

For more about obesity, try the U.S. National Library of Medicine.