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Lack of Sleep may lead to a Larger Gut

Posted by Failed Success on 04/06/06 at 01:26 PM

ObesityResults of recent studies are indicating that sleep deprivation could lead to obesity and even diabetes

There has been a dramatic increase in the amount of obesity in the United States over the past several years. This marked increase runs nearly parallel with the growing number of reported and diagnosed cases of sleep disorders and sleep deprivation.

Researchers feel that the two may be linked and have been conducting a range of studies to see how lack of sleep can alter our body chemistry and open the door to obesity and an increased risk of diabetes.

Too little sleep may contribute to long-term health problems by changing the concentrations of hormones that control appetite, increasing food intake, and disrupting the biological clock, according to Eve Van Cauter of the University of Chicago.

Before that pivotal study, tests had demonstrated that obesity could disrupt sleep, but few experiments had investigated whether lack of sleep could contribute to obesity. Several tests have been conducted to search for the reason for this possible correlation.

An excerpt from the Science News:

InsomniaResearchers have observed that people who sleep less than 7 to 8 hours a night have elevated rates of obesity and diabetes. In late 2004, Karine Spiegel of the Free University of Brussels in Belgium and Van Cauter conducted experiments in healthy men showing that forced sleep restriction for 2 days increased appetite and triggered changes in the appetite-related hormones ghrelin and leptin. The observed ghrelin elevation and leptin suppression may have encouraged food intake, Spiegel says.

Preliminary results close in on an independent relationship between sleep loss and diabetes. Spiegel, Van Cauter, and their colleagues collected data from 13 volunteers who habitually sleep about 5 hours per night and from 14 others who sleep about 8 hours per night. The groups had similar body weights and ages.
Spiegel reported at the conference that the people who sleep less produce markedly elevated quantities of the hormone insulin. Their high insulin production reflects a state, called insulin resistance, that can be a harbinger of diabetes, Spiegel says.

In another new study reported at the conference, Emmanuel Mignot of Stanford University Medical School and his colleagues tested about 2,000 employees of Wisconsin government agencies. Obesity was common in that population, and volunteers who slept either significantly less or more than the overall average tended to be heavier than people getting a moderate amount of sleep, Mignot reports. Compared with people who slept 8 hours a night, those who slept 5 hours had 16 percent lower leptin concentrations and 15 percent higher ghrelin concentrations in their blood.

Mignot and his colleagues have launched a yearlong trial that will test whether prescribing extra sleep can make some obese people lose weight. He hypothesizes that an extra 1.5 hours of sleep per night might produce weight losses of 3 to 4 percent.

While much of the research seems to indicate that the link between lack of sleep and obesity is one of body chemistry, there is also a much more practical reason that the two could be linked as well. When people sleep less, they have more time for eating. People who have trouble falling asleep at night, or stay up for long periods of time due to work or other interests, usually spend more time snacking. This, coupled with finally succumbing to your need to sleep immediately after eating, could easily lead to gaining weight in most people.

For now, researchers are still continuing their studies to learn more about the chemical and psychological links between sleep and obesity. Until they unlock these great mysteries of our bodies, a little extra sleep may be just what the doctor ordered for those who want to shed a couple of pounds.

Further Reading:
- Read about these recent studies at The Science News
- Learn more about the Hunger Hormone and how it affects you
- New Revelations about the Hunger Hormone at The Science News

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