Weekday Sleep Loss Linked to Weight Gain
Who needs sleep? According to the CDC, at least 30% of adults in the U.S. do – that’s the number of people who report getting less than six hours of sleep per night. The National Institutes of Health suggests adults need seven to eight hours of sleep per night, but with busy schedules, TV marathons, and noisy distractions in today’s society, sleep loss has become a widespread issue and it is taking a toll on health. A 2015 study presented at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society finds losing as little as 30 minutes of sleep per day may promote weight gain and impair blood sugar control.
The UK study involved over 500 patients who were part of the Early Activity in Diabetes trial, a larger study investigating the benefits of diet and exercise in people with type 2 diabetes. At the beginning of the study, participants kept a sleep diary for seven days, logging their weekday sleep debt (the difference between the amount of sleep you should be getting and the amount you actually get). Compared with participants who lost no sleep, people with sleep debt were 72% more likely to be obese. After 12 months, every 30 minutes of weekday sleep debt recorded at baseline was associated with a 17% increase in risk of obesity and 39% increase in risk of insulin resistance.
According to lead researcher Professor Shahrad Taheri, MBBS, PhD, professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, these results support that sleep loss is accumulative and can have metabolic consequences. Sleep deprivation may increase fat storage by impeding the body’s ability to efficiently metabolize carbohydrates, and may also increase your appetite by raising levels of cortisol and lowering levels of leptin, both hormones that affect hunger.
Professor Taheri suggests incorporating strategies to avoid sleep debt into weight loss and diabetes interventions in order to improve success and health outcomes. Here are a few simple tips for getting more zzz’s:
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning.
- Lighten up your dinner. Research links heavy, high-fat evening meals with increased sleep disruption and less REM (deep) sleep.
- Remove electronics from the bedroom. Exposure to light from computers and smart phones suppresses melatonin, a hormone that promotes drowsiness.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime.
Published May 1, 2015