From: Editor, ENN
Published March 12, 2013 10:11 AM

Sleeping Less May Lead to Weight Gain

Health professionals have always emphasized the importance of sleep, but why? Research has shown that a lack of sleep can lead to weight gain, but the reasons why have remained somewhat unclear.

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However, according to a new study led by the University of Colorado Boulder, staying awake longer requires more energy and therefore more food intake during the next day which can lead to weight gain.

Researchers conducted a study in which 16 health adults lived at the University of Colorado Hospital where they were monitored for two weeks.

Participants spent the first three days with the opportunity to sleep nine hours a night and eat controlled meals to establish baseline measurements. But after the first few days, the participants were split into groups that had five hours to sleep and an opportunity to sleep nine hours. In both groups, participants were offered larger meals and had access to a variety of healthy and not so healthy snack options throughout the day. After the five-day period, the groups switched.

The study found that on average, the participants who slept for up to five hours a night burned 5 percent more energy than those who slept up to nine hours a night, but they consumed 6 percent more calories. Those getting less sleep also tended to eat smaller breakfasts but binge on after-dinner snacks. The current findings add to the growing body of evidence showing that overeating at night may contribute to weight gain.

"I don't think extra sleep by itself is going to lead to weight loss," said Kenneth Wright, director of CU-Boulder's Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory, which led the study. "Problems with weight gain and obesity are much more complex than that. But I think it could help. If we can incorporate healthy sleep into weight-loss and weight-maintenance programs, our findings suggest that it may assist people to obtain a healthier weight." But further research is needed to test that hypothesis, Wright added.

"Just getting less sleep, by itself, is not going to lead to weight gain," Wright said. "But when people get insufficient sleep, it leads them to eat more than they actually need."

The study suggests that sufficient sleep could help battle the obesity epidemic.

The research can be found in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Read more at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Sleeping woman image via Shutterstock.

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