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Get More Zzz's to Lose Pounds
Let me sleep on it. It’s a phrase we use to avoid making hasty or ill-advised decisions. And when it comes to a healthy lifestyle, sleep is indeed an important necessity. New research is shedding light on just how important shut-eye can be to keeping your weight in check.
More Sleep Turns Obesity Genes Off
Many are curious if their obesity is passed down. The heritability of obesity is a concept that points to genetics for the variation of weight in the population. Scientists have discovered a “fat mass and obesity associated” (FTO) gene that is strongly associated with BMI and obesity. But a fat gene doesn’t have to dash your healthy weight dreams. That is, if you’re willing to get more zzz’s. A large scale study of twins found that those who slept under seven hours a night had greater genetic influences on BMI than environmental factors such as diet and exercise. The reverse was true for those who got more than nine hours of sleep. Specifically, genes accounted for 70% of the differences in body mass index for the sleep-deprived twins, as opposed to just 32% in well-rested participants. Sleeping more therefore helps your healthy habits like diet and exercise count, while lowering how obesity genes affect you. While those with the FTO gene were found to be around seven pounds heavier, the effects of additional sleep on turning off that gene could help make up the weight difference.
Lack of Sleep and Hunger
Beware of falling below the six-hour mark. A review of studies reveals the role inadequate sleep may play in increasing the vulnerability to obesity. Those who fall below six hours of sleep a night have an increased body mass index, diabetes and hypertension. This may be due to the fact that lack of sleep negatively affects your ability to make good food choices. Not only does sleep loss boost appetite, but it may also make you less discerning. A separate University of Chicago study found subjects who slept just four hours, two nights in a row reported a 24% increase in appetite and their cravings for sweets, salty, and starchy foods greatly increased.
Lack of Sleep Slows Metabolism
If changing the effects of your genes isn’t reason enough to get to bed earlier, maybe keeping your metabolism revved will help pull up the covers. A new Brigham and Women's Hospital study kept subjects in a completely controlled environment nearly six weeks. Initially participants were given optimal sleep, about ten hours a night, followed by three weeks of sleep deprivation, a mere 5.6 hours a night. The last nine nights of the study allowed recovery sleep at the usual ten hours. The results showed a significant decrease in resting metabolic rate, as well as an increase in glucose concentrations after meals. According to researchers’ results, the effects of lack of sleep could translate to a yearly weight of over ten pounds if diet and activity go unchanged and an increased risk of diabetes.
Bottom line, shooting for seven to eight hours of sleep a night is adequate, while more is optimal. Yet even if you have healthy habits for diet and exercise, getting less than seven hours of sleep could increase your incidence of chronic disease and cause weight gain long term.
How much sleep do you get a night and what could you cut down on to get more zzz’s?