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Only until recently has a link been uncovered between weight loss and sleeping habits.  Sleep duration and quality are a concern for energy intake, energy expenditure, and weight management.

Sleep Requirements

Sleep needs decrease as you age, however plateau at age 18.  A newborn (1-2 months) requires anywhere from 10.5 – 18 hours of sleep a night while adults (18 and up) require 7-9 months.  This large amount of sleep for newborns is largely in part due to their growth rate.  As we age, we do not grow as much therefore sleep requirements decrease.

Stages of Sleep

Simplistically, there are 5 stages of sleep: Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3, Stage 4, and REM (rapid eye movement).  During your sleep, you fall deeper into sleep as you pass through Stages 1 to 4.  During these stages, brain activity decreases progressively.  After Stage 4, you enter REM which is characterized by an increase in brain activity (dreaming) and relaxed muscles.  It takes approximately 90 minutes to complete one cycle of the sleep stages, therefore you may undergo 4-6 sleep cycles per night.

Lack of Sleep

Since the 1960’s, there has been an increase in adults who get less sleep each night (15.6% to 37.1%).  Interestingly, the amount of sleep one gets has been associated with body weight.  The association: People who get less sleep tend to be heavier than people who get adequate or more than required sleep per night.

One study (Chaput et al. 2008) demonstrated that short sleepers (< 6 hours per night) had a greater increase in weight gain, body fat, and waist circumference over a 6 year period compared to people who got adequate sleep per night.  Therefore, weight management can be properly conducted when people get adequate sleep daily.

Sleep Restriction

When we deprive our body of sleep, what happens?  Why do we gain weight?  Here is what we currently know about sleep restriction and how it effects both ends of the metabolic balance beam – energy intake and energy expenditure.

Energy Intake:

When people are sleep deprived, they have disturbances in glucose metabolism and an increased hunger.  Hormonal changes include a decrease in leptin, increased ghrelin, increased cortisol, and decreased glucose tolerances which sums up to an increase in hunger.  Furthermore, people tend to increase snack intake when under sleep restriction, and in fact seek calorie-dense foods.

Energy Expenditure:

Whenever you are tired, you move less because you are fatigued.  Therefore we reduce our voluntary physical activity and nonexercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) ultimately resulting in a reduced energy expenditure.

In summary, if we restrict our sleep, we tend to eat more and move less during the following day.  This is a big problem if you are trying to lose weight.

Sleep Extension

What if I increased the amount of sleep I got every night?  Well, preliminary results suggest that extending sleep may be associated with:

–          Better mood and ability to focus

–          More willingness to exercise

–          Decreased sleepiness during the day

–          Decreased caffeine intake

–          And decreased cravings for sweet and salty foods

Therefore, what do you have to lose?  Getting your 7-9 hours of sleep each night might help you lose the weight you have been struggling with.  Remember, less sleep may make you move less and eat more, so get your sleep so that you can tip the scale in your favor!

References

Chaput, J.P., Desprès, J.P., Bouchard, C., & Tremblay, A.  (2008). The Association Between Sleep Duration and Weight Gain in Adults: A 6-Year Prospective Study from the Quebec Family Study. 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