If you’re packing on the pounds and can’t find the source, you might want to check your pillow. (Photo: Getty Images)
According to two new studies, losing just a half hour of sleep each night or having irregular sleep patterns may lead to weight gain that’s the equivalent of eating an extra bagel per day!
In the first study, presented at the American Heart Association meeting in Dallas on March 5th, researchers from Penn State University analyzed sleep data on 342 teens with an average age of 17, who slept an average of seven hours a night. On nights when they slept an hour less or more than normal, the teens added roughly 201 calories, six grams of fat and 32 carbs to their usual diet.
The researchers think that getting less sleep may cause teens to spend more time on the couch the next day — with snacks in hand. It’s also possible that erratic sleep may lead to hormone imbalances that cause teens to become hungrier, and nosh more often.
In the second study from researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College in Doha, Qatar, researchers assigned 522 patients with a recent type-2 diabetes diagnosis to one of three groups: usual care, added exercise, or diet and exercise.
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At the beginning of the study, those who didn’t get enough sleep throughout the week were around 72 percent more likely than those with sufficient sleep to suffer obesity. Six months into the research, they were even more likely to be obese and have problems controlling blood sugar.
Interestingly, just a half hour of missed sleep from the participants’baseline measurements on weekdays was enough to trigger these weight and diabetic issues. After one year of follow-up, for every 30 minutes of sleep debt a person accumulated, the risk of obesity and insulin resistance rose by 17 percent and 39 percent respectively. This research was presented at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in San Diego.
Like the Penn State study, Shahrad Taheri, MD, a professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in Doha, says science points to hormonal shifts spurred by sleep loss as a key factor. “We don’t know the full mechanisms, but our previous work has suggested that sleep loss affects hormones that regulate appetite, food intake, and energy expenditure,” Taheri tells Yahoo Health.
Taheri hopes his research helps convince people to pay more attention to how their sleep habits impact their overall health and well-being. “People don’t take sleep seriously enough,” he says. “Sleep is the third lifestyle factor, in addition to food intake and physical activity, that should be taken more seriously.”
According to Taheri, people need to ensure they get enough sleep at night — and it’s not just a matter of feeling better the next day. “Loss of sleep accumulates and results in a sleep debt,” he says. “One of the reasons that lifestyle interventions for obesity and diabetes have not been as successful as we would like may be because we have ignored the effect of sleep.”
According to the National Sleep Foundation, school children ages six to 13 need nine to 11 hours of sleep a night; teens ages 14 to 17 need eight to ten hours; and adults 18 and older need seven to eight hours of sleep a night.
And don’t forget that it’s daylight savings time, meaning you’ll lose an hour of sleep on Sunday, March 8th — so you may want to hit the sack a little earlier that night.