Less sleep means more fat
A new study in Sweden shows how poor sleeping patterns are connected to excess tummy fat
MOUNTAINS OF diet books neglect to mention it. And surprisingly few online weight coaching sites give any credence to the mounting body of scientific evidence pointing to an important reason why some people stay fat, despite following a weight-loss and exercise regime.
Studies have linked sleep deprivation with weight gain and show how missed sleep also disrupts levels of stress and hunger-related hormones during waking hours.
Now a new Swedish study, in which 6,500 women from the age of 20 upwards throughout Sweden participated, has shown that poor sleeping patterns and excess tummy fat are connected and people who sleep too little are much fatter than those who sleep seven hours or more a night.
Scientists at Uppsala University discovered that women who have a hard time sleeping are especially at risk of becoming unhealthily overweight, increasing their chances of falling victim to coronary diseases and diabetes.
The chief researcher Dr Jenny Theorell-Haglöw believes there are several possible explanations connecting poor sleeping patterns and dangerous amounts of abdominal fat in the women who took part in the Swedish study and whose waist measurements were recorded and compared with the number of hours they slept per night.
“We have to do a follow-up study,” she told The Irish Times, “but one of the explanations is that too little sleep affects the production of cortisol and disturbs other systems in the body contributing to increased fat storage in the abdomen”.
Lack of sleep is also thought to impact on various hormones such as leptin and ghrelin. Higher levels of ghrelin, known as the hunger hormone, were detected in volunteer students deprived of sleep in a Columbia University research study which found that people who slept five hours a night were 50 per cent more likely to be obese than normal sleepers.
Recent research in Germany concludes that not getting a full night’s sleep slows a person’s ability to burn calories so they gain more weight, while existing Swedish research has established that sleep-deprived young men consumed about the same amount of food as a control group who slept normal hours, but burned up to 20 per cent fewer calories than the well rested group.
Another study of men and women came up with similar results, concluding that sleep deprivation increases the risk of obesity. Sleep-deprived participants felt less energetic and more sluggish and were more vulnerable to snacking, poor diets and binge eating.
Now scientists want to see if increasing the hours of sleep could be possible treatments for diseases related to weight gain such as obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Jenny Theorell-Haglöw says she is surprised that healthy lifestyle and dieting books do not stress more the now established connection between sleep deprivation and excess weight.
“We are all familiar with sleep- deprived TV characters going to the fridge for a night time binge, undoubtedly stress is a big factor in sleep deprivation and less sleeping time also means that you have more time awake and more time to eat”.
She hopes that her research “establishing for the first time a clear relationship between lack of sleep in women and potentially dangerous abdominal fat” will result in women taking lack of sleep very seriously, especially if they are overweight.
“They should consult their doctors and try to achieve lifestyle changes with more exercise and less stress,” she adds.