Lack of sleep and obesity


Careful with hidden causes of obesity! Inadequate sleep increases weight gain!

The fast track lifestyles we are living driven by the demands and opportunities of the modern society we belong to is causing the habit of not having the regular 8-hour sleep.

Several studies have concluded that people who sleep less than 6 hours per night are more susceptible to obesity.

This forms the relationship between irregular sleep and increased body mass index (BMI); so when the BMI* is more than 30 Kg/m2 this indicates that a person is obese.

Inadequate sleep is linked to hormonal imbalances regulators of appetite, increased incidence of diabetes and high blood pressure, noted James Gangwisch, a respected sleep researcher at the University of Columbia. Short periods of sleep increase the ghrelin hormone levels and decrease the leptin hormone levels thus generating hunger and an increase in appetite. This can lead to a largest caloric intake (especially of foods rich in fat and carbohydrates as seen in the studies) promoting obesity.

Briefly stated, leptin is the hormone that sends a signal to the brain that the body has had enough to eat— this promotes satiety. Ghrelin, on the other hand is responsible for informing the brain when we need to eat. During sleep, levels of the hormone leptin increase informing the body that we have enough energy for now while that of ghrelin go down.

Furthermore, staying awake a longer time may allow greater opportunity for food intake during night and can also result in fatigue the next day which tends to decrease the level of physical activity.

The below figure is a good illustration of the link between short sleep durations and obesity (by Dr. S. Taheri)

My advice to you is to pay attention to the duration and quality of your sleep (minimum of 8 hours) as a way to control your weight and prevent obesity. Please, never forget to always combine this with a regulated diet and physical activity!

A few good tips for a good nights sleep:

  1. Solve your problems during the day, reconcile with those you have argued with and only think of praying before bed,
  2. Avoid caffeinated drinks after lunchtime,
  3. Avoid sleeping immediately after dinner; the ideal is to give an interval of 4 hours before bedtime. Also avoid high fat dishes at night!
  4. If you’re having trouble sleeping, take a hot drink. Chamomile or warm milk are always great choices,
  5. Perform physical activities at least 3 hours before bedtime — those help in the release of certain hormones that regulate sleep and let your body tired at bedtime, making you feel the need to sleep

* BMI = (Weight in Kilograms / (Height in Meters x Height in Meters))

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Brazilian- Lebanese Dietitian Samia Khoury, AUB graduate

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