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Is There a Connection Between Sleep and Weight Gain?

Posted On February 26, 2014
February 26, 2014

There are many stories that have circulated for years that a certain popular sleep aid causes people to exhibit very unusual behavior, including making and eating a full meal or even scarfing down an entire chocolate cake. Unfortunately, you don’t have this excuse to explain away the extra pounds you have packed on in the last couple of weeks. Yes, you have problems sleeping but you don’t take sleeping pills. So is there a connection between sleep and weight gain?

Studies Show There is a Connection between Sleep and Weight Gain

Over the years, studies have discovered that there is indeed a connection between lack of sleep and weight gain. Presented at the annual SLEEP meeting in 2012, researchers at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center and Columbia University in New York found the culprit to be sleep deprivation. Using brain scans, the group evaluated the effect that sleep deprivation had on the brain and its activity. When sleep deprived, the test subjects had an increase in brain activity when viewing images of junk food and this was not the case when looking at pictures of healthy food.

Another study published in Nature confirmed the aforementioned group’s findings. When the brain is deprived of the necessary restorative powers of sleep, even for one night, the end result is a desire to eat high calorie foods. The group out of the University of California Berkeley determined that hunger was not the trigger causing the test subjects to reach for doughnuts and potato chips, as even when given extra food it was sleep deprivation that prompted the desire for junk food. In addition, the results showed that as the participants slept less and less their need for high caloric food became more pronounced. They theorized that sleep deprivation prevents the brain from making rational decisions with regard to food choices.

Conducting research at the University of Colorado, a group determined that getting less than the ideal 8 hours of sleep a night in a row affected their participants in yet another way. The results of their study showed that when getting 5 hours of sleep, individuals ate smaller breakfasts and larger dinners. In fact, their subjects put on an average of two extra pounds having consumed and an additional 6 percent in calories when they were sleep deprived. These researchers concluded that sleep deprivation affected a person’s circadian rhythm much like the effect of jet lag on a person. Their bodies thought they should still be asleep and so consumed a small breakfast and large dinner with late-night snacks to boot.

Published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, University of Chicago researchers discovered that lack of sleep to the tune of getting only 4 hours of sleep had an effect on fat cells. A change occurred in these cells similar to what is found in individuals with type 2 diabetes or who are obese, i.e. the cells are less sensitive and/or resistant to insulin.

What is the take away message from these studies? Getting a good night of sleep goes hand in hand with a healthy diet and regular exercise.

If you believe that you might have sleep deprivation problems or suffer from sleep apnea, please contact one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537 or schedule a free consultation.

About Phoebe Ochman

Phoebe Ochman, Director of Communications for Sleep Apnea Treatment Centers of America, manages all content and communications for the company.
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