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Is Sleep Deprivation Weighing You Down?

sleep and obesity

One of my earlier blog posts was recently referenced. It was entitled The Weight of Sleep Deprivation and provided some insight into the relationship between sleep deprivation and weight gain. It also provided some excellent resources for those you want to take some steps to improve the quality of your sleep. 

Two hormones that influence appetite, leptin and ghrelin, are very much influenced by sleep deprivation. The quick review is that we want our leptin level appropriately high because leptin suppresses appetite, and we want our ghrelin low because it stimulates appetite. A University of Chicago study found that participants who slept only 4 hours for 2 nights had an 18% decrease in leptin and a 28% increase in ghrelin—resulting in a 45% increase in appetite, in particular for high refined and calorie dense foods.

Two studies presented at Sleep 2012: Associated Professional Sleep Societies 36th Annual Meeting, suggest sleep deprivation selectively and significantly impairs brain activity in the frontal lobe, a region critical for controlling behavior and making complex decisions such as what and how much to eat.

Not only would you gain weight as a result of the extra caloric intake, a study at Wake Forest University suggests that sleep deprived people gain more of the risky belly fat.

Common sense says this but Obesity Source at the Harvard School of Public Health reports that people who are sleep deprived are more tired during the day and less likely to participate in physically active activities. They also spend more time watching TV and pursuing other sedentary activities. As one of my favorite quotes from James Loehr says…

sleep deprivation quote

Let’s stop for a moment and review. Studies now show that people who are sleep deprived have significantly increased cravings for high calorie foods, have impaired activity in very part of the brain that might help them resist those craving, if they over eat, more fat is stored as dangerous belly (visceral) fat; and as a result being tired or exhausted, the last thing you feel like doing is exercising or preparing a healthy meal for that matter.

It should, therefore, that a study presented at the American Heart Association’s 2012 Scientific Session found that sleep deprivation had a tremendous impact on caloric intake. Researchers studied 17 healthy, young men and women for eight nights, with half of the participants sleeping normally and half sleeping only two thirds their normal time. Participants ate as much as they wanted. The sleep deprived group consumed an average of 550 additional calories a day. That’s right, 550 calories a day! Another study published in the journal Obesity Reviews, found that compared to those who got 7-9 hours of sleep nightly, those getting 6 hours were 27% more likely to become obese—and those getting 5 hours or less were 78% more likely to become obese.

It is time to acknowledge that sleep is not a luxury, but an essential component of a healthy, weight maintaining lifestyle.

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