Get Sleep or Get Fat: Lack of Sleep Leads to Obesity

A recent study reported at a meeting of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity shows that there is a direct link between lack of sleep and obesity. The study, based on information from about 18,000 adults, showed those who got less than four hours of sleep a night were 73 percent more likely to be obese than those who got the recommended seven to nine hours of rest.

"Maybe there is a window of opportunity for helping people sleep more, and maybe that would help their weight," said Columbia University professor of medicine Dr. Steven Heymsfield, who did the study with Columbia epidemiologist James Gangwisch.

They presented the results, which were based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) conducted from 1982-1984, this week. The study included long-term follow-up information on health and exercise habits, so that the effects of sleep could be secluded and provide accuracy.

Although people tend to burn fewer calories while they sleep, lack of sleep affects two appetite-related hormones. Leptin and ghrelin are substances which impact weight loss and weight gain. Leptin, which is lowered from sleep deprivation, is a blood protein that suppresses appetite. Ghrelin, which is raised makes people want to eat.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, college students average 6.8 hours of rest per night, but many college students alter this average when they stay up all night to study. Howard University junior advertising major Ebony Reid agrees that when she does not get enough sleep she tends to eat more.

"I eat more when I get less sleep because I think my body needs some kind of energy and food fulfills that need," she said. Reid says that she usually gets about six hours of sleep, but during finals week she gets less.

The holiday season is quickly approaching and if people want to keep their weight gain to a minimum, they should spend more time in bed.