Does too little sleep lead to weight gain?

Mon Jul 11, 2011 2:53am EDT
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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Want to avoid weight gain? Maybe some more sleep would help.

People who got very little sleep ate more but didn't burn any extra calories, according to a U.S. study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that adds to evidence supporting a link between sleep deprivation and weight gain.

Approximately 50 to 70 million U.S. residents -- including a significant number of shift workers -- suffer from chronic sleep loss and sleep disorders, according to the National Institutes of Health.

"If you're trying to control your weight, it would be helpful not to be sleep-deprived," said Marie-Pierre St-Onge of the New York Obesity Research Center at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital, who led the study.

Although the most recent study, like other that have gone before, doesn't prove that sleeplessness causes people to pack on the extra weight, they do show that sleep should be a priority, experts said.

St-Onge and her colleagues recruited 30 men and women in their 30s and 40s, all of roughly normal weight. The participants lived and slept in a research center during two different five-night periods.

During one of those visits, they were allowed to sleep for nine hours each night. During the other, they were only allowed four hours of shut-eye. Both times, they were fed a strict diet for the first four days of their stay and then were allowed to eat whatever they wanted on the fifth and final full day.

Tests showed that regardless of which sleep schedule they were on, people burned a similar amount of calories, about 2,600 per day.

But when they were sleep-deprived, they fed themselves about 300 more calories on average on the final day of the study compared to when they had been sleeping normally. Well-rested participants ate an average of 2,500 calories that day, compared to 2,800 when they were running on less sleep.   Continued...