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Getting Enough Sleep at Night May Just Help You Lose Weight

Eating the right foods and exercising regularly have been the hallmark of most weight management programs for the last 50 years. We are learning more and more about how other lifestyle factors affect weight such as stress, hormones, and other emotional triggers. Now it appears we can add sleep to the growing list of lifestyle factors that affect our weight.

A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggest that getting enough sleep may help with your weight loss efforts. The study found that sleep deprived volunteers (4 hours per night) had a 28% increase in a hormone called grehlin, which is an appetite stimulant. They also found an 18% decrease in leptin, a hormone that acts as an appetite suppressant, and 23% increase in overall appetite. To make matters worse the participants had an increase appetite specifically for calorie dense foods including sweets, salty and starchy foods.

Although this was a small study, which will need more follow up; it is not the first to suggest how sleep affects weight. A 1999 University of Chicago study showed that sleep loss could affect the way we metabolize carbohydrates resulting in glucose intolerance and possibly leading to increased hunger and a slowed metabolism. It is also important to note that over the past 40 years, self-reported sleep duration in the U.S. has decreased by almost 2 hours according to Karine Spiegel, PhD and colleagues from University of Chicago in Illinois and overweight and obesity have been on the rise.

More studies are needed to show that these results are reproducible and to demonstrate a cause and effect relationship. However, getting a good night sleep is good advice either way. There is no doubt about it that a lack of sleep interferes with our energy levels during the day and can cause us to skip our exercise routine because we are far too tired. How often has lack of sleep interfered with your activity level? This alone is good enough reason to add a good night's sleep (8-9 hours) to your weight management plan.

© Meri Raffetto, 2005

Meri Raffetto is a Registered Dietitian and a recognized professional in the area of nutrition and wellness. She is the owner of Real Living Nutrition Services providing interactive online weight management programs. Sign up for her free monthly newsletter to receive nutrition tips, healthy recipes, and more at


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