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Does Sleep Loss Cause Weight Gain?

Psychologist Michael Breus, PhD, makes this case in his book “The Sleep Doctor’s Diet Plan: Lose Weight Through Better Sleep.” There is a well established correlation between reduced sleep hours and higher body mass index

Breus is one of many who say the relationship between low sleep and high weight causal. His research suggests that low sleep triggers the body to build bigger energy stores in an attempt to manage the longer awake periods. The body accomplishes this, in part, through the release of cortisol, a stress hormone that, as one effect, increases appetite. Sleep deprivation also triggers increased production of ghrelin (the hormone that signals hunger) and decreases release of leptin, the hormone that tells the body it is full. In short, sleep deprivation causes the body to demand more energy. 

One can see the extent of the problem when also considering the sleep deprivation research published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  Marie-Pierre St-Onge, of Columbia University, and colleagues, found that sleep-deprived people burn 2,600 calories per day, just like people with good sleep patterns. However, sleep-deprived people consume 300 more calories per day on average. Only 7,700 calories causes a kilogram of weight gain.  By that math, each month of poor sleep could add close to 1.3 kilograms to a person. 

Exercise physiologist services at Advanced Physiotherapy can be used to help with weight management. We often tell people that exercise alone is not enough. Diet changes must also take place. There is good evidence that sleep deprivation makes diet improvement more difficult. Maintaining your healthy weight is one more good reason to get a good night’s sleep. 

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