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Sleeping Less Can Lead to Weight Gain, Study Reports

Update Date: Mar 12, 2013 10:17 AM EDT
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New research revealed that 28 percent of American adults reported sleeping six hours or less per night. (Photo : bark/Flickr)

When you are not sleeping enough, you give yourself a few more hours and increase your chances to go and ravage the fridge. According to a new study, people who do not get enough sleep tend to eat significantly more and thus, add inches to their waistlines. A lack of sleep has been found to affect the heart and brain functions by several other studies, and now, it might actually be a contributing factor to obesity. Obesity can lead to several health complications as well, such as cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, and thus, this study continues to stress the importance of getting a good night's rest.

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The researchers found that although the people with restricted sleep burned 5 percent more calories, they also ate 6 percent more calories in comparison to the group that had more sleep, and gained weight. This finding is helpful in understanding how sleep loss can contribute to obesity. The actual fact that one is sleeping less does not immediately lead to obesity, but rather, it might lead to higher consumption rates.

The researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder, headed by Kenneth Wright, the director of the Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory at the school, recruited 16 participants for this study. The participants were all considered to be lean, healthy, and young. They were asked to live in a sleep suite for two weeks at the University of Colorado Hospital so that the researchers can observe their behaviors. The researchers were able to control the participants' sleeping patterns by controlling when the lights went on or off. They also measured the participants' energy levels by recording the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the room.

The researchers grouped the volunteers in one group for the first three days. This group received nine hours of sleep and was given just enough food to maintain their weight. The group was then divided in half and one group was only given five hours of sleep, whereas the other one continued to sleep nine hours. Both groups were given a larger amount of foods and junk foods, like chips and ice cream. After five days since the split, the researchers switched the groups for the next five days

The study concluded that the restricted sleep group tended to eat less during breakfast and snack more during the evening, leading to a higher calorie count at the end of the day. Researchers recorded a weight gain of two pounds within the five days of restricted sleep. Once this group shifted to the sufficient sleep group, the volunteers, on average, lost weight.

The researchers also stressed that men and women reacted differently in both situations. Men who received nine hours of sleep tended to gain weight whereas women gain weight when they lost sleep. Although the researchers did not find out the exact causes of weight gain between the men and women, they believe that this information can help people who are dieting and do not want to gain weight.

This study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.  

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