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Are You Overweight Because You're Not Sleeping Enough?

By Tracy Lee

If you're like me, you probably wish that there was a way for you to lose weight without having to put in much effort, right?

Everyone knows the importance of exercise and how it helps us with weight loss, but on some days don't we all wish we can just sleep in bed and lose weight at the same time?

Well, I've got some great news for you...

Sleep is a critical part of your weight loss program!

This is a little-known fact, but did you know that sleep can affect your weight? Rather, it's the lack of sleep that can make you put on unnecessary weight. You may actually lose more weight if only you were to sleep more every day. What an intriguing thought, isn't it?

In a review of several studies examining the impact of sleep on the regulation of metabolism, Dr. Eve Van Cauter, Professor and Research Associate at the University of Chicago, noted that the association between hormones and sleep was identified more than 30 years ago when it was reported that adult men secrete growth hormone during the early phase of sleep. Since then, research has indicated a harmful effect of sleep loss on the endocrine system and glucose modulation.

One study examined the effect of sleep debt and sleep recovery on hormone concentrations and glucose tolerance in healthy males ages 18-27. One week of sleep restriction produced dramatic results: a 30 percent slower response to both the glucose tolerance test and acute insulin response compared with results in rested subjects. Sleep deprivation also raised the 24-hour cortisol profile.

Another study found that sleep deprivation resulted in 30 percent lower levels of leptin. Amazingly, the effect is similar to that observed with caloric restriction (3,000 calories over 3 days), signaling a negative energy balance.

A more recent study examined the effect of 10 vs. 4 hours of sleep on appetite. Subjects who slept 4 hours were always hungry and craved starchy, sweet, and salty foods. These results suggest that sleep deprivation produces a signal mimicking negative energy balance, inducing people to eat and thereby predisposing to obesity.

These results indicate an association between sleep debt and obesity. Sleep deprivation would affect glucose tolerance and leptin levels and increase the appetite for unhealthy foods. She noted that sleep restriction would have greater impact on obese individuals, who have higher leptin levels to begin with, and on older adults.

Dr. Van Cauter also noted that the studies were performed in males only. Because females have higher baseline levels of some hormones (e.g. leptin), sleep restriction might have worse effects in women than in men.

Hey, did you notice the groups which were mentioned specifically in the last 2 paragraphs that may be more severely affected by sleep deprivation? I'll recap them here again: (1) obese individuals, (2) older adults, and (3) women.

That's really crucial for us because this means if you're a woman over 40, not getting enough sleep will probably make you feel hungry constantly and crave for all the unhealthy foods even more as compared to other people. And the more overweight you are, the more you may be affected by the lack of sleep.

Not surprisingly, another study has indeed found an inverse relationship between increased body mass index (BMI) and sleep duration in women. That is, women who do not sleep enough tend to be more overweight than women who get sufficient sleep.

And just in case you still believe in the myth that "Oh, it's alright because I'll catch up on my sleep on the weekends", you should note that Dr. Van Cauter also made the following observation: Sleep debt is generally not paid back fully by weekend sleep. I suppose this is kind of like the saying "An apple a day, keeps the doctor away" -- eating 7 apples on Sunday instead of 1 a day just isn't going to give you the same results!

Now, I'm _not_ saying that you don't have to exercise and all you have to do to lose weight is to sleep it off. Exercise, strength training and physical activities in general are vital components of a permanent weight loss program.

It's simply that if you don't sleep enough, you'll just be making it more difficult for yourself to lose the extra weight. There's no point in sabotaging your chances of weight loss success if it's a simple matter of making sure you get enough sleep every night, right? I mean, how much easier can it get?

According to William Dement, Stanford University sleep researcher, adults need about 8 hours of sleep a night. Try your best to get this amount every day, and you'll reduce one more obstacle in your path to attaining your desired ideal weight. Simple idea, isn't it?

Copyright 2005 Tracy Lee

About The Author

Tracy Lee is the owner of the "Weight Loss for Women Over 40" site. Get the latest news, tips & tricks that can help women over 40 to lose weight safely and permanently, and your complimentary copy of our Special Report "9 Little-Known Insider Weight Loss Secrets To Help Women Over 40 Make Those Extra Pounds Disappear" instantly here:

This article is available for reprint in your ezine, website or e-book. You MUST agree not to make any changes to the article and the RESOURCE BOX MUST be included WITH A LIVE LINK back to our website. Otherwise reprint is prohibited.


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