Friday, April 27, 2012

Sleep your way to thin

OK, I wish this were really true.  But maybe not sleeping is making you fat?

A new study, published April 11 in Science Translational Medicine suggests that not getting enough shut-eye might be a contributing factor to weight gain, diabetes, and other metabolic disorders.  Big time.

The researchers took 24 healthy volunteers and subjected them to a grueling 21 days of very little sleep and total day/night disorientation.  For four weeks, the volunteers were only allowed to sleep 5.6 hours of every 24.  Lights were kept on "dim" and the day/night schedule was shifted to 28 hours.

How did the volunteers respond?  Insulin levels dropped in all subjects to a level seen in pre-diabetes. Volunteers also measured a reduced resting metabolic rate, down 8% from normal.  Meaning, fewer the sleepy volunteers needed fewer calories to maintain weight.  Insulin levels, blood sugar response, and basal metabolic rate returned to normal within a few days of the volunteers resuming a normal amount of sleep, within the normal 24 hour day/night cycle.

What's the take home?
Missing out on sleep can effect you. Big time.  Sure, these volunteers were only tortured for a few weeks, and quickly went back to normal.  But what if you're trying to survive on 5-6 hours of sleep a night for years?  Decades? This study suggests it can take a significant toll on your basal metabolic rate to the extent that if no other variables change would lead to 12+ lbs gained in one year. And missing out on the extra sleep can result in insulin insensitivity - a serious pre-diabetic state. There's lots of other animal and human studies supporting these conclusions.

Now, being realistic, and being a mom of two little girls who have their own definition of sleep that rarely takes into account Mom's need for shut-eye, I know how hard getting all your zzz's can be.  But this study might help give you a little more encouragement to try to catch a nap when you can, or maybe try to turn in when the kids to a couple times a week.  Your waistline and your longevity might benefit in the long run.

Oh, in case you're wondering about if the volunteers were compensated, "Participants received payment for volunteering in this study, equivalent to ~$10 per hour when in the laboratory."  They also got meals. No mention of them being provided video games.

The article:

Adverse Metabolic Consequences in Humans of Prolonged Sleep Restriction Combined with Circadian Disruption
Orfeu M. Buxton, Sean W. Cain, Shawn P. O’Connor, James H. Porter, Jeanne F. Duffy, Wei Wang, Charles A. Czeisler, Steven A. Shea 

The abstract found here

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