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Lack of Sleep Linked to Weight Gain - Women Who Slept More Less Likely To Become Obese or Fat - Study Hormone and Appetite Possible Cause

May 24th 2006

Lack of Sleep Linked to Weight Gain - Women Who Slept More Less Likely To Become Obese or Fat - Study Hormone and Appetite Possible Cause


Scientists discovered that women who slept 5 hours or less per night weighed more than those who slept 7 hour.  The women who slept 5 hours or les weighed 5.4 pounds more at the beginning of the study than those who slept 7.  Making matters worse, the women gained an additional 1.6 pounds more over the next 10 years.

Lead researcher Sanjay Patel, M.D said “That may not sound like much, but it is an average amount--some women gained much more than that, and even a small difference in weight can increase a person's risk of health problems such as diabetes and hypertension."  Patel is Assistant Professor of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH.


The study involved 68,183 middle aged women enrolled in the Nurses Health Study.  The women were asked in 1986 about their typical night’s sleep.  The researchers then compared their weight every 2 years for 16 years.

The women who slept 5 hours or less were 32% more likely to experience major weight gain.  This meant they gained 33 pounds more.  They were also 15% more likely to become obese. 


More sleep benefited the women.  Women who slept for 6 hours were 12% more likely to have major weight gain and 6% more likely to become obese compared with women who slept 7 hours a night.  According to Patel, “Prior studies have shown that after just a few days of sleep restriction, the hormones that control appetite cause people to become hungrier, so we thought that women who slept less might eat more. But in fact they ate less.”  This means appetite and diet are not accounting for the weight gain in women who sleep less.

This is the largest study to track the sleeping habits on weight gain over time.  The researchers couldn’t find any differences in physical activity that could explain why women who slept less weighed more.


The researchers are not clear why less sleep causes weight gain.  "We don't have an answer from this study about why reduced sleep causes weight gain, but there are some possibilities that deserve further study," Dr. Patel said. "Sleeping less may affect changes in a person's basal metabolic rate (the number of calories you burn when you rest). Another contributor to weight regulation that has recently been discovered is called non-exercise associated thermogenesis, or NEAT, which refers to involuntary activity, such as fidgeting or standing instead of sitting. It may be that if you sleep less, you move around less, too, and therefore burn up fewer calories."

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Dan Wilson
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Important:  The material on Best Syndication is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical conditions. You should promptly seek professional medical care if you have any concern about your health, and you should always consult your physician before starting a fitness program.

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