Study: There’s a Link between Lack of Sleep and Obesity - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

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Published on October 31, 2013

Study: There’s a Link between Lack of Sleep and Obesity

At this point in time, most of us know what it takes to lose a few pounds or maintain a healthy weight: exercise daily, eat plenty of fruits and veggies, steer clear of the corner bakery, etc. But that’s not all you need to do. In order to keep those extra pounds off, you also need to sleep.

A recent study found that those who slept less than seven hours a night were more likely to gain weight. But before you start rolling your eyes over the idea that sleep has anything to do with obesity, we’ll clarify that it’s not the lack of sleep that directly causes weight gain. In fact, those who slept only five hours a night actually burned more calories than those who got plenty of sleep.

The real issue at hand? Our bad eating habits ignited by sleep deprivation.

It all starts with the first—and arguably most important—meal of the day, breakfast. Those who received little sleep either ate a small breakfast or skipped the meal altogether, and were more likely to overeat later on. And they weren’t indulging in carrot sticks—most people went right for the carbs and fats. So even though they burned more energy, they also ate more than they needed to, which ultimately led to a two-pound weight gain over the course of five days. Yes, it happens that fast!

Here’s why: Our bodies simply aren’t designed to take in extra calories at night, and there are numerous studies that suggest eating at night can cause weight gain. And sleep deprivation is partly to blame, since it makes us more likely to ignore the hormones that send signals to the brain that the stomach is full. This means that people will misinterpret their desire for sleep for hunger pains, and therefore feed the wrong needs of their body.

So if you’re one of the millions of Americans who doesn’t get enough shuteye at night, what should you do?

For one, eat right. Make sure you have a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner. Also, try to eat dinner before it gets dark out, when your body is most likely to metabolize food.

Next, limit your exposure to unhealthy snacks. This is especially important for men, who were found to be more likely to overeat when exposed to an unlimited food supply—even when they received plenty of sleep the night before.

And finally, the obvious one, get some sleep. Make it a priority to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep every night. And if you’re having trouble adjusting to this new way of living, try some of these tips for a great night’s sleep.

For more information, visit Crozer-Keystone’s website at http://sleepcenters.crozerkeystone.org. Crozer-Keystone offers a multidisciplinary approach to the identification and treatment of all types of adult and pediatric sleep disorders. To make an appointment, visit our website or call 1-888-SLEEP-03 (1-888-753-3703). 

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