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Can sleep loss affect your weight?

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Sleep loss may lead to weight gain.
Sleep loss may lead to weight gain.

Sleep. We all need it. We all enjoy it. But then why are so many us not getting enough of it? Our fast paced modern-day lifestyle, child raising, work and our extensive exposure to brightly lit electronic screens could be considered the major culprits. The Healthy People 2020 recommends sleeping time should be more than 7 hours a night. However, many of us get less than 6 hours of sleep a night. Various studies have suggested sleep loss correlates with excess fatty tissue and obesity. A recent review in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics dives deeper into this investigation.
It has been proposed that those that receive less than 6 hours of sleep may fall victim to the following;

  1. An increase in calorie intake – Whether it be out of boredom or a hormonal response, those that receive less sleep may eat more food. Studies have shown that sleep loss may increase the hormone ghrelin, the hormone responsible for appetite, and decrease the hormone leptin which is responsible for fullness This leaves people feeling hungry and reaching for the potato chips. In addition, some studies have suggested people crave items higher in fat if they are sleep deprived. Therefore, not only are people hungry, they are hungry for items that tend to have more calories
  2. A decrease in energy output – Most people would believe if they are awake longer then they would burn more calories, but they are wrong. Sleep loss is often associated with a higher level of tiredness. Sleep deprived people tend to not have the energy to perform higher levels of activity such as walking or jogging and prefer lower level activities such as sitting.
  3. Altered Metabolism – Loss of sleep may alter your metabolism. During sleep loss, the hormone cortisol may increase which can encourage the storage of fat. In addition, there have been studies demonstrating sleep deprivation may lead to insulin insensitivity, which can cause an increase in fat storage and change in body composition. Other changes in the body that might occur include loss of muscle mass.

The exact link between sleep and weight management remains to be unclear. But one thing is certain, sleep is an integral part of our well-being. Including more sleep in you schedule may help you achieve balance in your life and assist you with your weight management goals. Try to identify factors in your life leading to sleep loss such as stress, TV, or excessive computer time before bed and make changes where you can. If sleep loss is related to a medical condition such as insomnia or pain please consult a medical professional. Keeping a journal of your sleep habits and what takes place prior to going to bed may help you identify areas that need improvement. A good nights sleep can help you feel more energized and more in control of your life.

Shlisky, J., Hartman, T., Kris-Etherton, P., Rogers, C., Sharkey, N., & Nickols-Richardson, S. (2012). Partial sleep deprivation and energy balance in adults: An emerging issue for consideration by dietetics practioners. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 112(11), 17851797.

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