Does Sleep Loss Mean Weight Gain?
By Carolyn Richardson
As the ever-increasing use of Facebook, Twitter, smartphones, video games and TV allows for engagement around the clock, are you getting less shuteye than you used to? You’re not alone. The National Sleep Foundation’s Annual Sleep in America Poll found that 60% of Americans between the age of 13 and 64 say they experience a sleep problem every night or almost every night. Although it seems improbable that sleep has anything to do with your weight, a number of studies show that a lack of sleep could indeed lead to weight gain.
Lack of Zzzz’s Slows Metabolism
A small study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a lack of sleep slows metabolism. Led by Dr. Christian Benedict of the Uppsala, University in Sweden, healthy men were examined after a good night’s sleep compared to a night of continuous wakefulness. The results showed a reduction in energy expenditure by 5 to 20% in participants as well as elevated levels of ghrelin, a hormone that promotes hunger, and blood sugar after sleep deprivation. With the study only examining one night of sleep deprivation, it raises the question of how metabolism is affected over time by a lack of sleep.
Isn’t It Your Bedtime?
A study by researchers at New Zealand’s University of Otago involving more than 200 children monitored the sleep patterns of children between ages 3 and 7. Researchers estimated the amount of sleep the children were getting each night with their BMIs. The results: Each additional hour of sleep at ages 3 and 5 was associated with a reduction in BMI of 48 points, and a reduced risk of being over weight by about 40 points at age seven. Even after adjusting for initial weight status and other confounding factors, the increased risk for becoming overweight due to lack of sleep held. The research team, including Rachel W Taylor, Karitane research associate professor of early childhood obesity, found the difference in BMI was due to increased fat mass index, not lean body mass. A similar study conducted on adults goes a step further by relating fat loss to sleep or the lack their of.
Sleep and Lose More Fat
Published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, a study by the University of Chicago and the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that, regardless of their diet and exercise regimen, dieters lost more fat when they got more sleep. The study placed obese and overweight participants in two groups, one with 5.5 hours of sleep and one which got 8.5 hours of sleep over a 14-day span. With the same exercise and diet during that time, those with more sleep lost more than 50% of their weight from fat, while the group with 5.5 hours of sleep saw only a 25% fat loss. Despite consistent evidence, small-scale studies do not offer definitive or causative indicators as to why this is, so it’s incumbent on Americans to make sleep a priority.
Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep
An alarming 95% of those surveyed by The National Sleep Foundation admitted to using technology in the hour before going to sleep a few nights a week, a statistic that could explain one reason for sleep deprivation in America. Charles Czeisler, PhD, MD, Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital had this to say, "Artificial light exposure between dusk and the time we go to bed at night suppresses release of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, enhances alertness and shifts circadian rhythms to a later hour—making it more difficult to fall asleep." In addition to avoiding technology in that golden hour before going to sleep, tips from the National Institutes of Health’s Guide to Healthy Sleep include avoiding the following: caffeine and nicotine, large meals and beverages late at night, and naps after 3 p.m. On the other hand, they encourage unwinding before bedtime, taking a hot bath, exercising daily and sticking to a sleep schedule.
How well do you sleep? Have seen a change in your sleeping habits during weight loss or weight gain?