Sleeping Longer Helps Weight Loss

Another new study shows that sleeping longer helps with weight loss. Researchers at Walter Reed Medical Center have found that even with increased activity, less sleep seems to contribute to higher body mass index, and more difficulty with weight loss. The scientists say maybe sleeping longer keeps hormones that signal food satiety intact, in turn leading to success with weight loss and maintenance.

Lead investigator of the study, Arn Eliasson, M.D. says, “Primarily, we want to know what is driving the weight differences, and why sleep and weight appear to be connected.” Study participants who were more active, but slept less, were not successful with weight loss, even though energy expenditure among overweight study participants was 1000 calories more per day.

The study showing that longer sleep helps weight loss was part of the Integrative Cardiac Health Project at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Researchers analyzed sleep patterns and observed energy expenditure, and activity among fourteen nurses employed at the facility. The program included nutritional counseling, exercise training, stress management and sleep improvement. The nurses wore an actigraphy armband to evaluate rest and activity.

Dr. Eliasson says, “When we analyzed our data by splitting our subjects into ‘short sleepers’ and ‘long sleepers,’ we found that short sleepers tended to have a higher BMI, 28.3 kg/m2, compared to long sleepers, who had an average BMI of 24.5. Short sleepers also had lower sleep efficiency, experienced as greater difficulty getting to sleep and staying asleep.” Short sleepers took twenty-five percent more steps than the nurses with normal weight did, but the additional expenditure of calories was not shown to help with weight loss, supporting the findings that sleeping longer helps with weight loss.

Dr. Eliasson believes that sleeping longer may help with weight loss because the hormone leptin is interrupted in short sleepers, leading to increased eating. Another theory is that sleeping less leads to stress and lack of organization, “meaning they would have to make more trips and take more steps to accomplish the same tasks. This might add to their stress and encourage other unhealthy behaviors like stress eating,” said Dr. Eliasson.

Dr.Eliasson says more studies are planned to evaluate the role of stress on sleep and metabolism. The findings should lead to a better understanding of why some people have so much difficulty with weight loss. The current study consistently showed that sleeping longer somehow helps with weight loss and with maintaining a healthy weight.

American Thoracic Society