More Sleep Equals More Weight Gain

The more you sleep, the more weight you gain.

Don’t believe that!

Since activity burns calories, and sleep is the exact opposite of activity, it seems logical to assume that more sleep would equal greater weight gain. Actually, the very opposite is true.

Experts recommend seven to nine hours sleep per night, for adults. Americans currently get an average 6.8 hours of sleep per night, a 24% decrease from nine-hour average in the early 1900s. Approximately 30% of adults sleep less than six hours per night.

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of 8,000 adults in 2005 showed a correlation between sleeping less than seven hours a night and a greater risk of both weight gain and obesity (defined as a Body Mass Index – BMI – of greater than 30).

Lack of sleep increases hunger, as illustrated by two recent studies. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition compared the caloric intake of men who slept four hours per night versus eight. The men in the four-hour group consumed 500 more calories than their more well-rested counterparts. A University of Chicago study of both men and women reached similar conclusions and particularly noted an increase in consumption of high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods by the sleep-deprived. There are two reasons for these results. Firstly, the brain can confuse fatigue with hunger. Secondly, improper levels of sleep increase the hormone leptin (which stimulates appetite) and decrease the hormone ghrelin (which signals your brain that you are full).

Another problem related to the quality and quantity of one’s sleep is a decreased ability to manage blood sugar levels. This can affect your future body weight and even lead to diabetes. Eve Van Cauter, PhD, the author of two research papers on the subject, said that sleep deprivation was the “royal road to obesity.”


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