Lose sleep and gain weight? New research helps explain why lack of zzzs adds inches to your waistline.
At this week’s Sleep 2012 medical conference sponsored by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society, some of the world’s foremost sleep scientists (yes, they really do exist!) are revealing the latest findings about sleep and how it impacts our health and well being. Some of the sessions include topics like “How to Sleep like a Rockstar,” “How Much Sleep is Necessary?” and “Restless Legs Syndrome” and “Sleep Loss and Weight Gain.”
Can’t sleep but you can always eat?
Because I’ve been burning the candle on both ends this past week, traveling to the Midwest from CA to do a TV segment in Milwaukee (thanks Fox6!), then I hopped on the high-speed ferry across Lake Michigan to set up my summer cottage in northwest MI. I couldn’t help notice how hungry I was all weekend long and the cravings I was having for less-than-healthy choices (read: cookies, ice cream, candy). Then, I saw a recent news report about a new study that looked at how lack of sleep affects areas of the brain involved with making food choices. We’ve covered several studies in the past year about sleep and obesity and this study adds new evidence to what currently exists.
University of California-Berkeley researchers used MRI scans to better understand how sleep deprivation impairs the regions in the brain where food choices are made, helping to explain the association between lack of sleep and weight gain, increased hunger and decreased satiety. Twenty-three healthy adults participated in two sessions consisting of MRI images of their brain after a normal night’s sleep then again after sleep deprivation. They also monitored how much subjects said they wanted various food items that were shown to them while they were getting the MRIs.
The results revealed that sleep deprivation impaired the frontal lobe of the brain, which is the region responsible for making choices that involve more complex thinking, like weighing the calories and fat of a fudgy brownie instead of just thinking about how great it would taste. The impact on the frontal lobe may be one of the mechanisms by which lack of sleep is associated with overweight and obesity.
Bottom line: Don’t lose sleep and gain weight. Strive to get at least seven hours a night (that appears to be what most people need). If you suffer from insomnia or poor sleep habits, start to change behaviors to help you get a better night’s sleep. You need and deserve it!