Lack of Sleep Linked to Weight Gain

According to a new study conducted by the University of California, Berkely, sleep loss can lead to weight gain.  That’s really not news, since  prior studies have showed a direct link between sleep deprivation and weight gain for a number of years.  However, this new study suggests that the reason for this causal link is  related to the effect sleep deprivation has on the human brain.

Prior Research

Previously, experts believed that pulling an all nighter caused metabolic stress, leading to extra calorie consumption to make up for the extra energy burned during hours of lost sleep.  The new Berkely study, however, suggests otherwise — there seems to be an actual chemical change in the brain when people are sleep deprived.

A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2010 confirms some of these changes.  In that study, sleep deprived participants reported feeling hungrier than when they got a full 8.5 hours.  The team of researchers, led by Dr. Plamen Penev of the University of Chicago discovered that levels of the appetite hormone ghrelin were higher among subjects during shorter sleep sessions.

The Gift of Sleep

Regardless of the effects of lack of sleep on weight gain, the quality of the sleep we get is directly correlated to overall quality of life and health.  But, unfortunately, when we’re stressed or busy, sleep’s the first thing that’s compromised.  But, there are ways we can help ourselves in this regard — here are a few:

  • Get adequate cardio.  Participants in a study funded by the National Institute on Aging reported better sleep quality after engaging in an excercise program for 16 weeks
  • Lay off the caffeine after 2:30 in the afternoon.  Dr. Michael Brues, PhD and director of the sleep division for Arrowhead Health in Glendale, AZ tells WebMd avoiding coffee and exercising regularly can significantly improve sleep quality
  • Have a regular sleep schedule, and stick to it, even on the weekends

For a comprehensive and detailed list of what causes sleep deprivation and what you can do about it, click here.

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