According to a new study, if you’re trying to lose weight, be sure to get a good night’s sleep. A new study suggests that lack of sleep could throw off a diet and affect your body’s ability to burn fat.
In the study, which was recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the volunteers who were overweight, but otherwise healthy were put on a low-cal diet. Their diets remained the same throughout the study, but they slept 8.5 hours a night for two weeks, and just 5.5 hours a night for two weeks.
Although the participants lost roughly the same amount of weight (about 6.5 pounds) on each sleep schedule, the makeup of those pounds differed substantially. When the participants were sleep-deprived they lost half as much weight in fat and almost twice as much in muscle. Lean muscle is important to maintaining weight loss.
The study participants also reported feeling hungrier when they weren’t getting enough sleep.
The study sheds light on the possible interaction between sleep loss and weight gain—both familiar menaces for many Americans.
The researchers were surprised by the stark difference in the losses of body fat associated with each sleep regimen. On average, they found the dieters lost 3.1 pounds of fat with adequate sleep and just 1.3 pounds with restricted sleep.
They also found that sleep deprivation raised levels of the hormone ghrelin, which stimulates hunger and increases fat retention.
The researchers aren’t certain why getting more sleep burns more body fat, but they have some theories. Being awake longer requires more sugar-like substances to maintain the brain’s relatively higher activity and metabolism, Dr. Penev notes. This may result in the body utilizing less fat and breaking down more lean body mass (such as protein) to convert into fuel for the brain.
The volunteers averaged 7.7 hours of sleep prior to the study, far more than the 6.5 hours or so reported in the general population.
Sleep: You Can’t Afford to Lose it
Most experts agree that if you are dieting, getting a few extra hours of sleep a week is not a bad idea, particularly if you get six hours of sleep or less a night. You may just discover that you aren’t as hungry, or that you have lessened your craving for sugary, calorie-dense foods.
That’s because when we get tired, we tend to consume sweet foods and high carbohydrate snacks to keep awake — and that automatically translates into eating more calories.
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