Sleep and Obesity: Sleeping more and losing weight | RMHP



Sleep More, Weigh Less

Research shows if you sleep more, you can weigh less– can it get any better than that?     As I read this headline, I can hear Miss Rodgers, my second grade teacher, reciting her favorite poem “early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”


This poem is an 18th century proverb, first recorded in Poor Richard’s Almanack published by Benjamin Franklin under his pseudonym of Poor Richard.


The clue to healthy living was given to me in second grade and I missed it.  Did you?


If you did, here are a few other health outcomes related to sleep and obesity that support the wise advice of Mr. Franklin:

  • 65% of Americans are either overweight or obese.  As more Americans become fat, it has also been observed we are sleeping less.  The average night’s sleep decreased from about nine hours in 1910 to about 7.5 hours in 1975, a trend that continues. Millions of shift workers average less than five hours of sleep per workday.[1]
  • Mayo Clinic quotes adults needing seven to nine hours of sleep a night[2].
  • “As the person gains weight, especially in the trunk and neck area, the risk of sleep-disordered breathing increases due to compromised respiratory function,” says Margaret Moline, PhD, and Lauren Broch, PhD, two sleep specialists at New York Weill Cornell Medical Center.  An estimated 18 million Americans have sleep apnea, a condition often affiliated with overweight or obese people.


A question to consider is: Does obesity contribute to sleep problems or do sleep problems contribute to obesity?


Scientists from the University of Chicago study found that over a matter of just days, a lack of sleep can impair metabolism and disrupt hormone levels. They found that “after restricting 11 healthy young adults to four hours’ sleep for six nights, researchers found their ability to process glucose (sugar) in the blood had declined—in some cases to the level of diabetics.”  Eve Van Cauter, PhD, termed sleep deprivation “the royal route to obesity”.  She also claimed, “despite not yet being overweight,” these young adults had profiles that predisposed them to putting on weight.”  Van Cauter’s research showed increase in appetite and calorie intake.   “The level of leptin falls in subjects who are sleep deprived, which promotes appetite. (Leptin is an appetite stimulating hormone.)   It suggests that at least one factor in obesity can be sleep deprivation. Poor sleep and sleep deprivation may increase appetite. Because the psychological manifestations of fatigue, sleep and hunger are similar, as adults, we sometimes confuse them—we tend to eat when we’re actually sleepy, because we think fatigue is a sign of hunger.”


Dr. Helene Emsellem of the Center for Sleep and Wake Disorders said in a May 15, 2012 NPR interview “Unfortunately, we have caveman’s hard-core wiring and insufficient sleep in primitive times was read by the body: Danger, store fat.


James Hill, MD, Director of the Colorado Nutrition Obesity Research Center at the University of Colorado and a spokesman for the American Society for Nutrition states, “There is a very, very strong link. People with sleep problems tend to have obesity.”


So it seems there is enduring truth to Ben Franklin’s adage.

[1]Easton, John,MedicalCenter Public Affairs, The University ofChicago Chronicle,Dec. 2, 1999, Vol. 19 No. 6