Does Less Sleep Cause Weight Gain?
The perils of sleep deprivation are well known. People who don't sleep enough tend to be irritable, depressed, have difficulty focusing on tasks and prone towards mental errors. It is also known that people who don't sleep enough are more likely to develop heart disease, diabetes and mood disorders. However in our 24/7 digitally-connected world, getting a solid night's shut-eye can prove difficult.
Another more tangible problem seems to be linked to lack of sleep--weight gain. According to an article published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives shorter sleep times are associated with weight gain, obesity and metabolic disturbances. When we fail to sleep enough on a continuous basis, our bodies' circadian rhythms become disturbed. One of the consequences of an alteration in our circadian rhythms is a change in our bodies' metabolism.
Several studies have linked a decrease in sleep with disturbances in the hormones leptin and ghrelin, which are responsible for regulation of food intake and the feelings of satiety (fullness). Other studies suggest that a lack of sleep may make it more difficult for people who are overweight to lose body fat.
Many epidemiological and controlled studies have linked shortened sleep times to an increased risk for developing metabolic syndrome; this syndrome encompasses five factors (one factor is enlarged waistline) which predispose a person to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
So what's the take home message here? If I sleep eight hours a night, will I lose ten pounds? Well, it's not quite that simple. Scientists researching the link between sleep and obesity caution against using hypnotics (sleeping pills) to extend one's sleep cycles. Also, sleeping too much (over ten hours) can actually cause weight gain, as too much of a person's time is spent in a sedentary state.
What seems to be the key is consistency. Good sleep hygiene in the long-term seems to be positively associated with decreased rates of obesity. So shut the bedroom door, draw the blinds shut, turn off all the electronic devices and get yourself some restful sleep!