Sleep Restriction Promotes Weight Gain in Humans

sharma-obesity-sleep-deprivationRegular readers already know that lack of sleep is increasingly seen as one of the major drivers of calorie overconsumption and weight gain.

Those, who remain sceptical may be interested in a paper by Andrea Spaeth and colleagues from the University of Pennsylvania, just published in SLEEP.

This, to date the largest randomised controlled trial of experimental sleep deprivation on eating behaviour shows that individuals who are sleep deprived will consume up to 500 extra calories per day compared to individuals who get adequate sleep.

The researchers studied 225 health adults randomised 8:1 to an experimental condition (including five consecutive nights of 4 h time in bed [TIB]/night, 04:00-08:00) or to a control condition (all nights 10 h TIB/night, 22:00-08:00).

Not only did sleep-restricted subjects gain more weight (0.97 kg) than control subjects (0.11 kg) but sleep-restricted weight gain was greater in African Americans than Caucasians and in males than in females.

Sleep-restricted subjects consumed 30% extra calories (over 550 additional calories mainly between 22.00 and 04.00), easily accounting for the observed weight gain.

Thus, the authors conclude that chronically sleep-restricted adults with late bedtimes may be more susceptible to weight gain due to greater daily caloric intake and the consumption of calories during late-night hours.

Given what we know about how sleep deprivation affects appetite and metabolism, these findings should come as no surprise.

Let us not forget that a key characteristic of “Westernised” society is significant sleep deprivation and about 40% of adult Canadians report at least one symptom of insomnia with over 10% of Canadians reaching for sleeping aids.

Reason enough to consider sleep (or rather lack thereof) a key driver of the obesity epidemic.

Edmonton, AB

ResearchBlogging.orgSpaeth AM, Dinges DF, & Goel N (2013). Effects of Experimental Sleep Restriction on Weight Gain, Caloric Intake, and Meal Timing in Healthy Adults. Sleep, 36 (7), 981-990 PMID: 23814334