05/24/2010 09:28 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

The Link Between Sleep and Weight Loss

The New York Times likes to shoot down health claims when a rumor goes around touting the miraculous benefits of this or that. But this time, the Times can't hold back from boosting the claim about a lack of sleep increasing weight. The research just speaks too loudly.

I've blogged about the link between sleep and waist size numerous times before (I also talk about this in depth in my book, Beauty Sleep). We've known for years now that sleep and weight maintenance go hand in hand. If you don't get your Zs, you won't see your efforts to lose weight work to your advantage. Many studies have pointed to the imbalance in appetite hormones, namely leptin and ghrelin, that accompany sleep deprivation and which sabotages weight loss.

A study published in 2005, for instance, looked at 8,000 adults over several years as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Sleeping fewer than seven hours a night corresponded with a greater risk of weight gain and obesity, and the risk increased for every hour of lost sleep.

And now we have even more evidence of this profound connection:

  • Just this year, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition took a small group of men and measured their food intake across two 48-hour periods, one in which they slept eight hours and another in which they slept only four.
  • After the night of shorter sleep, the men consumed more than 500 extra calories (roughly 22 percent more) than they did after eight hours of sleep. Note: 500 more calories a day equals 1 pound of fat in just a week.
  • A University of Chicago study last year had similar findings in both men and women: subjects took in significantly more calories from snacks and carbohydrates after five and a half hours of sleep than after eight and a half hours.

How many hours are you getting? How many times have you tried to lose a few pounds? How many health conditions to you suffer from? Sleep deprivation is not just about fat and weight, it's also about general sleep health.

An Australian study reported that obese individuals (a group of over 300 patients who received a surgical procedure to help weight loss) not only showed significant sleep problems, but also showed a reduction of these problems with weight loss:

   1. Habitual Snoring (82 percent) reduced to 14 percent

   2. Observed sleep apnea (33 percent) reduced to two percent

   3. Abnormal daytime sleepiness (39 percent) reduced to four percent

   4. Poor sleep quality (39 percent) reduced to two percent

Need I say more? Sleep more. Weigh less.

Sweet Dreams,

Michael J. Breus, PhD

The Sleep Doctor™

This post on sleep and weight gain is also available at Dr. Breus's official blog, The Insomnia Blog: by Sleep Doctor Michael Breus, PhD.