Monday, August 08, 2005

Sleep Less, Gain Weight

Hey, everybody, it looks like the more sleep deprived you are, the more likely you are to gain weight. Finally, a way to fight obesity that isn't about dieting and exercise -- make sure you get enough sleep! An article in the current issue of Nutrition Action Healthletter says sleep deprivation, for as little as two nights in a row, causes an increase in the hormone that triggers hunger (ghrelin) and a decrease in the hormone that causes satiety (leptin) A lack of sleep also messes with your metabolism. When the brain notices the decrease in leptin, it interprets it as a sign of starvation and slows the rate at which you burn calories. So not only does a lack of sleep cause you to feel hungrier, it causes your body to burn fewer calories! A nightmare situation for those of us who are trying our best to fight American blobitude.

How much sleep are we talking about? Here's the article:

And researchers at Columbia University in New York City found that people who slept six hours a night were 23 percent more likely to be obese than people who slept between seven and nine hours. Those who slept five hours were 50 percent more likely -- while those who slept four hours or less were 73 percent more likely -- to be obese.

So turn off the light and get some sleep already!

As I said, I got this information from the July/August 2005 Nutrition Action Healthletter (volume 32, number 6), but unfortunately this article isn't available online yet. This WebMD article has similar information on the sleep-weight link.

I encourage you to check out the Nutrition Action Healthletter because it is an EXCELLENT source of nutrition information, practical ways to improve your diet and LOTS of reviews of supermarket items so you can steer clear of the worst ones and find the best.


One of my friends has responded to today's post with complete despair of now being sleep-deprived AND fat. That wasn't the response I meant to trigger and I regret that I did. But I ask, why not just rearrange your entire life so you can get enough sleep? I know it seems impossible and unreasonable to suggest (my friend has a marriage, a three-year-old daughter and a killer travel schedule), but even the busiest and most overcommitted people change everything once they're diagnosed with cancer or heart disease. Why does it take such life-threatening crises to get us to treat ourselves well? Why can't we start treating ourselves well before the life-threatening crisis has to happen?

I could wait until I'm 50 pounds overweight to make sure I sleep at least 7 hours a night and exercise regularly. I could wait until I'm diagnosed with diabetes before I start curbing sweets. I could wait until I've developed high blood pressure before watching my salt intake, sure. And since most of those things are inevitable if I ignore my health completely enough, I am guaranteed to one day (maybe at age 65?) have to diet, exercise and get enough sleep. The alternative will be to resign myself to an early death. So, why not start making those healthier changes now?

Seriously, why would I put it off? Why would anyone? Seriously.

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