Monday, May 3, 2010

You Snooze, You Lose: How Sleeping Can Help Shed Pounds

In April, this blog explained that sleeping eight hours a night can help reduce your diet by a Big-Mac’s worth of calories.

An article in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune goes into more detail on how sleep regulates your hormones to help you stay healthy. It reports on new findings by Harvard researchers that show that the hormonal changes and neurochemical reactions that occur during sleep may have serious implications for your weight and fitness.

These results support past studies that link sleep and weight loss.

According to Dr. Fran Mason, two weight-regulating hormones — ghrelin and leptin — are controlled by the amount of time you sleep and can affect your health goals.

"Ghrelin levels elevate slowly as you sleep; when you don't sleep, ghrelin levels rise more sharply, by as much as 15 to 28 percent,” Mason says.

This increase can cause weight gain of as much as five to 15 pounds.

Likewise, the higher your leptin levels are, the smaller your appetite will be because your body perceives energy stores.

"When you cut back on sleep, your leptin levels drop almost 20 percent," Mason says.

Your brain perceives this drop the same way as a 30 percent reduction in calories, producing the same appetite you would have if you cut your food intake by a third.

Sleep loss can have broader implications than just weight gain.

"Research shows that you have fewer white blood cells in circulation when you sleep less," Mason says. "These ‘natural killer cells' fight infection and represent the frontline in your ability to ward off illness."

Mason explains that markers of inflammation go up when you sleep less. Inflammation can cause pain, muscle soreness, arthritis, tendinitis, and other muscle and skeletal problems. Inflammation is also linked to asthma and heart disease.

More than 70 million Americans suffer from one or more sleep disorders, but many people are unaware of their condition. Visit Sleep Education to learn more.

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The Official Blog of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM) is intended as an information source only. Content of this blog should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment, and it is not a substitute for medical care, which should be provided by the appropriate health care professional. If you suspect you have a sleep-related breathing disorder, such as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), you should consult your personal physician or visit an AASM-accredited sleep disorders center. The AADSM, and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, as the managing agent of the AADSM, assume no liability for the information contained on the Official Blog of the AADSM or for its use.