Preventing Weight Gain in Your Sleep?

Regular readers of these pages will be well aware of the many studies that now show a close association between less sleep and weight gain.

In fact, a now often shown slide clearly documents, how steadily decreasing hours of sleep remarkably parallels the steady increase in obesity rates over the past decades.

In addition, substantial data from animal experiments clearly documents how sleep deprivation has profound obesogenic effects on appetite and metabolism.

So does getting more sleep protect against obesity or even help with weight loss?

This question was now addressed by Jean-Phillipe Chaput (CON Bootcamper) and colleagues at the University of Ottawa in a paper just published in the International Journal of Obesity.

The researchers analysed data from a 6-year longitudinal, observational study in adults aged 18-64 years.

Short-duration sleepers (<6 h per day; n=43) at baseline were divided into two groups: (i) those who increased their sleep duration to a ‘healthy’ length of 7-8 h per day at year 6 (mean increase: 1.52 h per day; n=23); and (ii) those who maintained their short sleep duration habits (mean change: -0.11 h per day; n=20).

While both groups had similar baseline characteristics, short-duration sleepers who maintained their short sleep duration experienced a greater increase in body mass index (BMI) (difference: 1.1) and fat mass (difference: 2.4 kg) over the 6-year follow-up period than short-duration sleepers who increased their sleep duration, even after adjustment for relevant covariates.

In contrast, there was no significant difference in adiposity measures between short-duration sleepers who increased their sleep duration and a control group of individuals who reported sleeping 7-8 h per day at both baseline and year 6 (n=173).

As the authors point out, this is the first longitudinal data suggesting that increasing sleep duration in individuals with short sleep duration is associated with a reduced risk of weight gain.

Clearly, it would perhaps now be time for a controlled trial of sleep intervention in short-sleepers with weight problems.

While it is unlikely that simply getting more sleep will lead to weight loss – remember, prevention of weight gain is the first sign of success.

I wonder if my readers notice any relationship between lack of sleep and their own propensity for weight gain.

Edmonton, Alberta

Chaput JP, Després JP, Bouchard C, & Tremblay A (2011). Longer sleep duration associates with lower adiposity gain in adult short sleepers. International journal of obesity (2005) PMID: 21654631