Sleep and ObesityIt would be good to report that you can ‘sleep yourself thin’, but unfortunately it is not that simple. The comforting news however, is that research suggests there is a link between sleep and what is now described as an ‘obesity epidemic’.

Shorter sleeping hours, for whatever reason, are being linked to weight gain. Recent studies have shown that the BMI (body mass index) of people who sleep less than 7 hours tends to be higher than those who sleep more. The studies looked at the hours slept and the corresponding weight gain. They concluded that the hours slept had a direct relationship with the amount of weight gained. Studies also show the same link in children too.

The connection between obesity and sleep disturbance has been known for some time. Sleep apnea and snoring are related to excess weight. Recent research now supports the theory that weight gain may be the result of the reduction in sleeping hours.

Sleep and Metabolism

Studies suggest that lack of sleep alters the metabolism and this is causing weight gain. Hormones that affect the signs of hunger and satiety are affected by lack of sleep. When these hormones are affected by sleep deprivation they can signal hunger. Sufferers, feeling hungry and tired, are less likely to pay attention to their diet and seek fast, energy releasing foods. They are also unlikely to be motivated to exercise as they strive to face another day, hungry and exhausted.

The amount of sleep we get has been reduced from around 9 hours in 1960 to less than 7 hours. This reduction in sleep time is closely mirrored by the rise in obesity during the same period. Experts are increasingly aware that sleep and other factors such as smoking, age, drugs and climate are all having an affect on our weight.

Sleeping more may also encourage adherence to a diet and exercise programme. A good diet, reduction in alcohol intake and smoking, all help encourage a good night’s sleep. Exercise is also seen to encourage a good night’s sleep. These will also help weight reduction and mental wellbeing. The importance of this new research is that having a good night sleep is now seen as a necessity for good health.

It is unlikely that adding a couple of hours sleep will result in a corresponding weight loss, but it’s a very good reason for having an early night!