What's the Connection Between Sleep and Weight?

Connection between weight and sleep

Recently medical professionals from all over landed in San Francisco for the Endocrine Society’s 95th Annual Meeting. This particular meeting focused on the discussion of their latest studies dealing with diabetes, obesity and how specific diets affect the health of one’s body.

One group who were involved in the meeting was researchers from the University of Chicago’s Section of Endocrinology. They shared results from their recent study, which found that people who do not get enough sleep have a tendency to get the munchies and end up eating too much throughout the day. This trend could lead individuals to face obesity and additional sleep issues. Overall, one’s health would decline. This study adds additional information to previous studies which have shown that obesity not only causes sleeping problems, but those who are unable to sleep typically eat more unhealthy food late at night. Often times, poor nights of sleep are due to night sweats or hot flashes.

One PhD and research associate, Erin Hanlon, at the University of Chicago led another study which showed that when adults who are both young and healthy get around 4.5 hours of sleep a night, they are apt to feel hungry throughout the day and potentially overeat. Sleep restriction ultimately increases hunger and appetite. One molecule, 2-arachidonoylglycerol or 2-AG, can be blamed for such overeating.

In Erin Hanlon’s study, she observed nine volunteers, all around 23-years old. These individuals spent six consecutive nights in a sleep lab, then spent another six nights there about one month later. They were each randomly assigned times, either from 11 pm to 7:30 am or form 1 am to 5:30 am. One represents a full night’s sleep, eight and a half hours, while the other represents a partial night’s sleep, four and a half hours. A measured diet was then given to each participant based on his or her height and weight.

After the second night of the study, Hanlon and her team took blood samples every hour for a 24-hour period. The 2-AG molecule was observed in each of these blood samples. This molecule relates to the amount of satisfaction one receives as they eat. The higher amount of 2-AG in one’s blood the less enjoyment they will experience when eating a full meal.

Once the blood samples were observed, it was clear that 2-AG levels were lowest in the middle of the sleep cycle and highest in the afternoon when the body needs to enjoy the intake of food. Individuals, who had only slept for a limited four and a half hours the night before the blood tests, did have higher peaks of 2-AG levels compared to those who slept for eight full hours.

This concludes that those who do not get a sufficient night’s sleep are likely to overeat the following day because their bodies will not feel full. These findings relate to millions of individuals whose bodies face this challenge on a daily basis. In order to maintain a healthy diet, one must not only focus on eating healthy and getting exercise, but also getting a good night’s sleep to keep one’s body on a regular track.