The link between sleep deprivation and weight gain has long been established. But now a new study conducted at the University of Chicago has demonstrated why this happens.
And the findings are alarming: not getting enough shuteye can have serious consequences for your health. Here’s the scoop…
A small group of young, healthy, and normal weight test subjects were periodically observed in a sleep lab over four weeks. They would come in for four days at a time and sleep 8.5 hours per night. After the four weeks they came to the lab for another four-day period but this time they were only allowed to sleep for 4.5 hours. Their diet remained unchanged during the entire study and they were also instructed not to exercise.
Their insulin sensitivity was tested at the end of the initial four-week period (i.e. after adequate restful sleep) and immediately after the four-day deprivation. The researchers also performed biopsies on their fat cells. The results were nothing short of shocking: total body insulin response dropped by 16% and that of their fat cells dropped by 30%.
Now here’s why this matters – a lot. When your body becomes insulin resistant, your pancreas needs to secrete more of the hormone to clear sugar from your blood. This is insulin’s primary purpose and it’s very adamant about doing so. After all, if your blood sugar isn’t kept within a very narrow range (about one teaspoon in your entire circulatory system) you’ll get very sick and even die.
But aside from clearing sugar from your blood, insulin also pushes fat into your fat cells. Furthermore, it prevents the release of fatty acids into your blood stream so they can be burned for energy. The end result is that you become more and more overweight while your insulin levels remain high.
And based on this study, we now know that lack of sleep leads to insulin resistance, and hence, contributes to obesity. Therefore, if you’re trying to lose weight, pay just as much attention to the amount of sleep you get as to the foods you put in your mouth (and your levels of activity). It’s just one more way to fight the battle of the bulge from all angles – and eventually win.