Diet and Weight Loss Current Topics in Diet and Weight Loss

Can Poor Sleep Affect Your Weight?

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Summary & Participants

Too tired to exercise? Craving carbs? You may want to sleep on it. Listen to what experts have to say about the link between sleep problems and your weight.

Medically Reviewed On: July 21, 2009

Webcast Transcript

ANNOUNCER: Are you avoiding the bathroom scale? Is it a struggle to pull on last year's clothes? If the answer is "yes," you probably need to take off some extra pounds. But what you might not know is that a little extra sleep could be the answer.

WOMAN: I don't know that there's a relationship between how much you weigh and how much you sleep.

MAN: How much I sleep and how much I weigh? That's got me. I am kind of confused with that one there. That's a good question, though.

ANNOUNCER: Studies show that people who sleep too little are actually more likely to raid the refrigerator.

ORFEU BUXTON, PhD: It seems as if the body responds to sleep restriction by craving more fuel, a reduced energy balance, and this is communicated by the fat cells, actually. Leptin is a molecule secreted by fat cells and conveys a satiety signal. "There's enough fuel on board." And with sleep restriction, keeping the level of activity and the amount of calories constant, the body says, "I need more food." And this is inappropriate and may lead to overeating and potentially obesity in the long term.

ANNOUNCER: Not only might you be eating more, you're probably going to crave just the wrong foods.

JANA KLAUER, MD: When you're sleep-deprived, you want to go for an empty calorie energy boost and usually those are carbohydrates that are very low in nutrients and very high in calories.

ANNOUNCER: But even making wise food choices might not work if you suffer from restricted sleep. This kind of poor sleep can actually change your metabolism.

ORFEU BUXTON, PhD: Not sleeping enough seems to be associated with metabolic changes that can lead to overeating and obesity, so in studies where sleep restriction in the laboratory was done, subjects tended to have metabolic changes and alterations of glucose metabolism that might lead to their becoming obese in the future.

ANNOUNCER: Sleeping too little can also contribute to weight gain by putting undue stress on the body.

JANA KLAUER, MD: The body sees sleep deprivation as a state of stress; cortisol is the stress hormone. Cortisol causes, in turn, the release of insulin and insulin is a storage hormone that promotes fat storage.

ANNOUNCER: Sleeping poorly may also do more permanent damage than just adding inches to your waistline.

SANJAY PATEL, MD: Sleeping too little seems to adversely affect glucose levels in the body, so that glucose levels are higher and people are more glucose resistant, more prone to diabetes if they sleep less.

ORFEU BUXTON, PhD: Habitual sleep restriction could play a very important role in increasing risk for diabetes later in life, especially if maintained over many years and decades, much like a sedentary lifestyle or poor eating habits. It's not something that catches up with you in a week or in two weeks, but it's something that over decades can shorten your life.

ANNOUNCER: While poor sleep can contribute to weight gain and other health problems, getting quality sleep could make it easier to get on that treadmill and stay trim.

JANA KLAUER, MD: When someone switches their sleep pattern to one of increased deep sleep, they wake up renewed. They don't put off going to the gym; they get out of bed, have their water, put on their gym clothes and go out the door and exercise.

People who exercise do spend more time in deep sleep rather than in light sleep; this has been measured. It is a cycle, and that exercise will help them to sleep better that night and so I think each kind of helps the other.

ANNOUNCER: While we all know quality sleep keeps us rested and alert for the day ahead, it now seems that it might even lead to a healthier metabolism and a healthier life.

SANJAY PATEL, MD: Given the wealth of data that exists, it makes a lot of sense that sleeping at least seven hours a night and getting good quality sleep will improve our metabolic function in terms of glucose levels, in terms of body weight, and getting a good night's sleep also makes people feel better.

ORFEU BUXTON, PhD: Sleep is a sign of a balanced lifestyle, including exercise and diet. And it's important to sleep a sufficient amount as a part of a balanced lifestyle that would promote good health.