Lack of sleep may lead to gaining weight: study

Mon May 16, 2011 11:39am EDT
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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Sleep deprivation makes the day drag and appears to put a drag on metabolism too, causing the body to use less energy, according to a European study.

The results, reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, add to evidence that sleep loss can promote weight gain -- not just by boosting hunger but also by slowing the rate at which calories are burned.

The study suggests that getting plenty of sleep might prevent weight gain, said Christian Benedict of Uppsala University in Sweden, who led the study.

"Our findings show that one night of sleep deprivation acutely reduces energy expenditure in healthy men, which suggests sleep contributes to the acute regulation of daytime energy expenditure in humans," he wrote.

Previous studies have linked sleep deprivation with weight gain and also shown how disrupted sleep also disrupts levels of stress- and hunger-related hormones during waking hours.

To help identify the exact mechanisms by which a lack of sleep might have these effects, Benedict and his colleagues put 14 male university students through a series of sleep "conditions" -- curtailed sleep, no sleep, and normal sleep -- over several days, then measured changes in how much they ate, their blood sugar, hormone levels and indicators of their metabolic rate.

They found that even a single night of missed sleep slowed metabolism the next morning, reducing energy expenditure for tasks like breathing and digestion by 5 percent to 20 percent, compared with the morning after a good night's sleep.

The young men also had higher morning levels of blood sugar, appetite-regulating hormones such as ghrelin, and stress hormones such as cortisol after sleep disruption.

Still, the sleep loss did not boost the amount of food the men consumed during the day.   Continued...

<p>A man sleeps on a bench at the Internationale Gruene Woche IGW (International Green Week) agriculture and food fair on its opening day in Berlin, January 21, 2011. REUTERS/Thomas Peter</p>