Lack of sleep can affect weight loss

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Suzanne Ulbrich
The Daily News, Jacksonville, N.C.

July 11–Recent studies suggest sleep and weight could be tied together.

“People who get more sleep have a tendency to lose more weight than those who sleep less,” said Dr. Scott Ellis, with Onslow Primary Care. “People who only get four to five hours of sleep a night have a 69-percent chance of being overweight than those who get eight hours of sleep.”

Although the average adult American gets less than seven hours sleep a night, there are many factors to support the need for at least eight hours of quality sleep each night, Ellis says.

“Research suggests when one is sleep deprived the metabolism slows down and you actually crave foods that are not good for you like sugary, salty, fatty foods; and you eat more than you should or larger portions,” he said.

Other studies show those who have less sleep have less activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brain — the part that controls discipline and “puts the brakes on cravings,” he said.

And medical research on the production of the leptin and ghrelin hormones revealed both may be influenced by how much or how little sleep one gets, he said. Ghrelin, produced in the gastrointestinal tract, stimulates appetite. Leptin, produced in the fat cells, sends a signal to the brain when one is full. Leptin levels decreased in those who slept less than eight hours a night, making food less satisfying. And ghrelin levels rose, causing one to want more food.

“Even some of the new weight loss drugs are targeting the leptin and ghrelin — the thinking is it can help control weight gain,” he said.

Ellis said there are also obvious reasons for getting enough sleep.

“When you are tired you have less energy and have more muscle aches which can interfere with exercising and the desire to exercise,” he said. “Tiredness can also cause muscle cramps and muscle fatigue, which makes it more difficult to do exercise.”

And for those who already sleep a lot but wake up tired and stay tired all day long, talk to your doctor because there could be physical reasons, Ellis said.

“You could have sleep apnea which deprives the lungs of oxygen when you are sleeping,” he said. “Symptoms include snoring and episodes where you stop breathing … Disruption in breathing prohibit you from getting a deep sleep and can affect blood pressure and the heart.”

Other interferences with sleep include frequent urination in men and women, he said.

“Men could have an enlarged prostrate and women could be incontinent,” he said. “It may be something that is fixable, so it is a good idea to consult with your physician.”

The Epworth Sleepiness Scale, available at, is a good tool often used by professionals to determine a person’s level of daytime sleepiness, Ellis said.

To help in getting the recommended eight hours of sleep each night, Ellis offers the following “sleep hygiene” tips:

  • – No caffeine after noon.
  • – Exercise during the day instead of closer to bedtime — exercise no less than four hours before bedtime.
  • – Use the bedroom only for sleeping and sex, and make it as comfortable as possible with the room temperature and bedding.
  • – Don’t force sleep. If you can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes get up and find a relaxing activity until you start to feel sleepy then try again.
  • – Don’t go to bed hungry. Eat a light meal or have a warm non-caffeinated drink.
  • – Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day so the body can get into a regular cycle.
  • – Avoid alcohol in the evening. Alcohol disturbs sleep cycles.


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