Skimping On Sleep May Make You Fat, Says Study
What do prime time TV shows, text messaging, and teething babies have in common? They each have the ability to keep us up at night, stealing precious moments from our much needed shut-eye. And according to a new study, these mini-distractions can culminate in sleep deprivation that, overtime, may disrupt the activity of the genes that affect metabolism and other functions of the body.
Last year, the Centers for Disease Control reported that approximately one-third of working Americans are not getting nearly enough sleep. Most adults require 7 to 9 hours to wake up rejuvenated (without coffee!), but the CDC found that many of us are sleeping an average of six or fewer hours a night.
“If people regularly restrict their sleep, it is possible that the disruption that we see … could have an impact over time that ultimately determines their health outcomes as they age in later life,” says Simon Archer, the study’s co-author and sleep researcher at the University of Surrey in England. This study is yet another in a long line that reinforces the power of a good night’s rest and how not getting enough shut-eye can lead to poor health: scientists in the U.K. and The Netherlands found that sleep deprivation can set off the production of white blood cell counts overnight; and recent findings from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that interrupted sleep may predict future placement in a nursing home.
For the study, 26 volunteers got a normal amount of sleep (8.5 hours) for one week, and then they turned around and spent a week getting less than the normal amount of sleep (5.7 hours). What the researchers found upon studying the participant’s blood samples was that during the week the volunteers skimped on their zzz’s, numerous genes—including those related to metabolism—were less active. In traditional Hispanic cultures, lack of sleep normally isn’t a problem because afternoon naps are par for the course. But acculturated Hispanics who have embraced a more American lifestyle of burning the candle at both ends, are destined to experience the same issues.
And therein lies the problem.
It’s been proven that the less sleep we get, the more our metabolism slows down because it’s trying to conserve energy. That slowdown then decreases the release of cortisol, the hormone that increases our appetite. Then guess what? You crave more food. A loss of sleep also tells our bodies to release more of another hormone, ghrelin, which signals hunger, and less of the hormone, leptin, which tells your stomach that it’s full. So with that yo-yo going on in your system, your body never knows that it’s had enough to eat—and just consistently wants more. Given this, you might understand now why you’re always hunger and the weight has piled on.
According to Archer, the significance of these findings will become more apparent once additional studies are conducted and analyzed on how losing sleep affects the body over years and decades.