Does Lack of Sleep Cause Obesity and Diabetes?


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My dad recently emailed me this article with the subject reading: "go to sleep or you will get fat." I kid you not. My parents were really concerned that all I would be doing in college is going out, doing school work, and not getting enough sleep. To convince me to sleep more my dad decided it would be a good idea to send me this article with proof that not sleeping enough can cause harm. It worked. This article in the Wall Street Journal says that there was a study conducted that links lack of sleep to obesity and diabetes. Fat cells store something called "lipids" but when cells don't respond correctly to insulin, these lipids can spill out into the bloodstream which can later cause diabetes. The less you sleep, the worse your lipids are at responding to the insulin, thus they poor out into your bloodstream and its surrounding tissue.
How did they find this out? Well an experiment was done in which the participants spent four days and four nights at a sleep lab. Exercise and meals were controlled. And then a month later the same participants spent another four days and four nights in the lab. During the first four days and nights they were allowed to sleep from 11 PM until 7:30 AM. And during the second round they could only sleep from 1 AM until 5:30 AM. After each period, the researchers took a biopsy of the belly fat in the participants. They examined the tissue and exposed it to the insulin and discovered that sleeping less caused the whole-body insulin sensitivity to be reduced by 16%. They noted that the study was quite small and would have to do it on a larger scale to know for sure. They took healthy people and deprived them of sleep, and next they would like to take unhealthy people and see if making them sleep more will help their body fat.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep a night, which I am sure most college students are not getting. 25% of adults aged 19 to 64 say they get less than seven hours of sleep a night during the week. I know that I sleep about six or seven hours each night during the week and after seeing the possibility that this can increase my body fat I am hoping to try and sleep more during the week... Just in case.

5 Comments

Reading this article is perfect timing for me because right now, I should be sleeping because I'm so tired!

I found this article to be really interesting. Initially I thought that the article would be about some sort of link between feeling hungry and being tired. I know for me, eating when I'm tired helps me to wake up in the morning and keep me up at night when working on a project. Here is a link that shows drinks and foods where caffeine occurs naturally (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/securit/addit/caf/food-caf-aliments-eng.php). I didn't realize that the way coffee is made (either brewed, ground roasted/ground percolated, roasted/ground filter drip) had an impact on the level of caffeine in it. Also, one oz. of baking chocolate has more caffeine than 2 oz. of chocolate cake! Very interesting... I know what NOT to eat after I write this blog post!

Very interesting blog. The study done seems to be well done, especially in controlling outside variables such as diet and exercise. As for Andrew's frequent question of whether or not a rational person should try to get more sleep to avoid gaining weight based on this experiment, I'd say it'd be a rational life change to make (even before the study was done on a larger scale or with the control group being unhealthy people).

I read another article on the same study from the Los Angeles Times, and they reported that aside from the overall 16% decrease of whole-body insulin response, there was an even more astonishing result from this study that reported fat cells had a 30% decrease in insulin response! The thought of all that unabsorbed insulin makes it seem very unlikely that diabetes won't come about.

Aside from lipids leaking from fat cells, I also have learned about sleep deficiency stunting our "energy expendenture", or the calories we burn simply from just being alive. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition did a study on this by allowing a group of men a sufficient amount of sleep for some nights, and depriving them of sleep one night. Each morning, they were served a large breakfast. The study found that on the night of sleep deprivation, the men had an overall energy expendenture of 5% less than when they did sleep, and a 20% less energy expendenture post-meal.

It seems safe to say that sleep=health. Fox News has compiled an interesting list on their website of 5 ways sleep deprivation leads to weight gain!

Reading this blog, I find it surprising that something like sleep could have an effect on your body fat. The study seems to have been done well and more conclusions could probably be drawn from further studies, but one thing I question is could a third variable be a cause for the increased body fat. Maybe the participants who are going to sleep so late and waking up so early are eating more unhealthy foods because of the excess time they are awake. Do you think this could be a possibility?

Also, when people go to sleep later, it's more likely they'll eat before they go to bed, like a fourth meal. If you think about it, a typical day of eating leaves about 2-4 hours in between each meal with the occasional snack to keep us full before the next meal time. Our bodies get used to this routine eating schedule. Well, the later you stay up at night, the more likely you'll be to have another meal or snack before bed, which other students have blogged about and we've determined as unhealthy. This could also contribute to the reason less hours of sleep make us fat!

But back to the issue of actually sleeping less,could we make up for this lack of sleep at night with naps during the day?

Also, when people go to sleep later, it's more likely they'll eat before they go to bed, like a fourth meal. If you think about it, a typical day of eating leaves about 2-4 hours in between each meal with the occasional snack to keep us full before the next meal time. Our bodies get used to this routine eating schedule. Well, the later you stay up at night, the more likely you'll be to have another meal or snack before bed, which other students have blogged about and we've determined as unhealthy. This could also contribute to the reason less hours of sleep make us fat!

But back to the issue of actually sleeping less,could we make up for this lack of sleep at night with naps during the day?

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