Emerging research suggests that sleep habits affect body weight control by influencing caloric intake and energy expenditure.
In fact, experts say new epidemiological studies point to a relationship between how long we sleep and the development of obesity and type 2 diabetes.
Recently, European researchers investigated the effect of short-term sleep deprivation on hunger as well as on physical activity and energy used by the body.
In the studies, investigators used state-of-the-art technology to measure physical activity and energy consumption. Physical activity was assessed by special devices worn on the wrist that detect acceleration. Energy used by the body was determined by indirect calorimetry, a method which estimates how much heat is produced by a person as they use oxygen.
Researchers discovered sleep deprivation increased how hungry participants felt and also raised the amount of the “hunger hormone” ghrelin detected in their blood.
In fact, the shorter the amount of sleep a person had experienced, the hungrier they were. After just one night of disrupted sleep, volunteers moved around less, although this was not surprising considering they also felt more tired.
Investigators also discovered that staying awake for one complete night reduced the amount of energy used by the body when resting.
This suggests that when we are sleep-deprived we are likely to eat more calories because we are hungrier. This alone might cause us to gain weight over time.
However, sleep loss also means we burn off fewer calories, which adds to the risk of gaining weight.
Researchers say current studies are investigating if increasing sleep time might help with weight control efforts.
Although much is still to be learned about the correct sleep dose for obesity and diabetes, the available research results clearly supports the notion that sleep is involved in the balance between the amount of calories we eat and the amount we use up through activity and metabolism.