Thu
Sep
20
2012

The Sleep Diet: Exercise, Dieting… and Sleep

exercise and sleep

A new sleep diet editorial authored by Canadian researchers suggests that sleep is just as important to weight loss as physical exercise and healthy eating. The researchers believe that a widespread lack of shut-eye is a major factor in obesity prevalence, and the fact that this is relatively unknown is why so many people fail to lose weight even with diet and exercise.

According to the editorial by Angelo Tremblay (Laval University, Quebec) and Jean-Philippe Chaput (Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute), the importance of sleep to weight loss is becoming more recognized among the medical community, but fitness experts and doctors should do more to further educate patients. Aside from weight loss, it’s always a good idea to get enough sleep, as an adequate amount of rest has been known to help with memory issues and disease prevention.

Support From a Wide Range of Studies

In order to come to their conclusions about weight loss, the researchers examined a total of 36 studies involving well over 600,000 individuals from various countries.

In one 2010 study, participants were broken up into two groups: one slept for 8.5 hours per night, one slept for 5.5 hours per night, and all followed this schedule in a lab environment for two weeks. The participants also ate 680 fewer calories than they did normally. The individuals who were sleep-deprived lost 60% more lean body tissue and 55% less fat tissue than the individuals who received plenty of sleep, a staggering difference by any measure.

An even more recent study examined 245 women over the course of six months. All of the women participated in the same weight loss program. The women who received at least 7 hours of high-quality sleep per night increased their likelihood of meeting their weight loss goals by 33%.

When looking at all of the studies combined, the Canadian researchers found that children are 90% more likely to suffer from obesity when they’re sleep deprived. The same was found of 50% of adults.

The Link Between Quality Sleep and Healthy Weight Maintenance

Scientists are currently unsure as to exactly why sleeping patterns are linked with obesity. However, some evidence suggests that losing too much sleep negatively affects areas of the brain dealing with pleasure eating. Other studies show that a lack of sleep leads to changes in levels of orexin, cortisol, ghrelin, leptin and other hormones, all of which influence the appetite.

Chaput and Tremblay argue that doctors should screen for sleeping disorders when patients come to them with weight loss difficulties. They also assert that future studies should examine ways to increase both the length and quality of sleep, such as reducing evening TV time and avoiding bright screens in general before retiring for the night, to determine whether more sleep equates to more weight loss.

The researchers maintain that getting more sleep may not help all individuals who are struggling with weight loss, but that a growing body of evidence supports the notion that obese individuals should examine their sleeping habits.

Sleep Diet: The Bottom Line

If you’re struggling to lose weight despite making healthy changes to your diet and exercise habits, getting more sleep each night may be the answer, according to a number of studies compiled by Canadian researchers.

The full text of the study is available online in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

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