Does sleep loss cause weight gain?

Doctors have long known that excess weight leads to sleep problems, but new research is finding that the reverse is also true. Sleep problems in and of themselves can pile on the pounds. Yes, it’s a vicious cycle. You put on weight, so you don’t sleep as well as you used to, so you put on more weight. Oy.

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Doctors have long known that excess weight leads to sleep loss.  And now, scientists are asking the reverse: Does sleep loss cause weight gain.?

The answer they’re finding is, yes. Sleep problems in and of themselves can pile on the pounds. Yes, it’s a vicious cycle. You put on weight, so you don’t sleep as well as you used to, so you put on more weight. Oy.

There are several metabolic reasons why sleep loss induces weight gain. One key reason involves two hormones – leptin and ghrelin. If you’re not getting enough sleep, your leptin levels go down, which is a problem because leptin does good things for us – it suppresses appetite.

Ghrelin does just the opposite – it stimulates appetite – and sure enough, this is the hormone that increases when our hours of sleep decrease.

Another problem: A lot of us are not even aware we’re having sleep difficulties. Oh sure, we know our sleep habits aren’t the best. Some of us get up every two hours to go to the bathroom. Others keep bedmates awake with snoring. Some of us wake up in the wee hours of the morning with busy brains, contemplating the next day. “Will Johnny pass his algebra test?” “Will I seal the deal at work? What happens if I don’t?”

Are any of these real sleep issues? Something to be concerned about? Something we can (and should) be treated for? It’s not unlike an alcohol drinker who asks, “Have I become a problem drinker? If so, what do I do?”

How sleepy are you?

To help you determine just how sleep deprived you are, doctors often use the questionnaire below, called the Epworth Sleepiness Scale. It asks:

How likely are you to doze off or fall asleep in the following 8 daily-life situations?

Score yourself with the following values:

0 = no chance
1 = slight chance
2 = moderate chance
3 = high chance

8 Daily-life Situations:

Score:

1. Sitting and reading
__________
2. Watching television
__________
3. Sitting inactive in a public place
__________
4. Passenger in a car for an hour without a break
__________
5. Lying down to rest in the afternoon
__________
6. Sitting and talking to someone
__________
7. Sitting quietly after lunch without alcohol
__________
8. Stopped in a car for a few minutes in traffic
__________

Total Score:

__________

If you scored 9 or more, chances are you have a sleep problem.

If you have a sleep problem, the last thing you should do is sleep on it.

It’s vital – indeed, life-saving – that you consult your doctor or a sleep specialist. In addition to weight gain, sleep deprivation causes fatigue, anxiety, depression, headaches, memory changes, and may also be a sign that you have sleep apnea, which is linked to very serious health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes, strokes, and heart attacks.

The Good News

Many sleep problems can improve tremendously. Sleep apnea and other sleep problems are usually very amenable to simple and highly effective therapy.

We also live in a society that routinely tells us it is OK to sleep less –– and to not sleep too much –– or we will miss out on something, a notion that is unhealthy and dangerous.



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