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Not just drowsy: New research on sleep deprivation and weight gain

We know a lack of sleep will make us drowsy, but scientists have discovered that this might not be the only consequence of sleep deprivation.

UF Health participated in Sleep Awareness Week throughout the second week in March this year, and is celebrating Brain Awareness Week from March 13th though 19th. These two weeks come together to promote healthy sleeping and eating habits and their positive effect on the brain.

New research by scientists in England has found that sleep-deprived people eat more calories on average than those who sleep enough for their bodies to function. King’s College analyzed 11 studies with 172 participants, according to UF Health’s Health in a Heartbeat post.

The King’s College researchers observed that this recent research boosts previous evidence that “sleep deprivation contributes to the imbalance between calorie intake and expenditure that is a main cause of obesity.”

Michael S. Jaffee, M.D., a sleep medicine specialist and vice chair of the department of neurology, suggests that all of our body systems are affected by sleep. Jaffee also said, “If you have sleep deprivation, you’re going to be eating more.”

Jaffee described the two hormones that drive appetite: Leptin and ghrelin. When leptin is up, this helps the body’s metabolism positively. When ghrelin is up, this stimulates appetite. When leptin decreases and ghrelin increases, as is seen in sleep-deprived patients, researchers see weight gain and obesity.

In addition to those hormones, people who are sleep-deprived can “develop a resistance to insulin and can get acquired or type 2 diabetes,” said Jaffee.

“With the changes in leptin and ghrelin, [the changes] affects the appetite stimulation,” said Jaffee. “You become resistant to insulin and have trouble with the proper storage and usage of fat and sugar.”

“Sleep deprivation affects your energy and fatigue, which means you’re going to exercise less, which means that you’re going to be more prone to gaining weight,” said Jaffee.

Jaffee said sleep deprivation is just one factor in the “vicious cycle” of weight gain. He added that weight gain has been associated with other sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea.

Across new and existing research, sleep deprivation is one of many factors that have an effect on energy and weight gain. Supporting education on nutrition and sleep awareness throughout awareness weeks will help physicians fight obesity in the nation.

About the Author

Abigail Kneal's picture

Abigail Kneal

Social Media Intern

Abigail is a third-year public relations student at the University of Florida. She manages UF Health’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest accounts and creates content for all channels. She has...Read More

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