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Sleep and Your Weight: What’s the Connection?

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If you’re feeling tired all the time and also like you’re gaining weight, it may not be your imagination. Sleep deprivation can cause people to develop metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that may include insulin resistance (when the body doesn’t properly use insulin, causing excess glucose to build up in the bloodstream), hypertension (high blood pressure), morbid obesity (having a BMI of 40 or higher), and hyperlipidimia (elevated fats in the bloodstream).

Find out how losing weight on The Center for Medical Weight Loss (CMWL) plan can help reduce your risk for these conditions.

Studies show that people who don’t get at least seven hours of sleep a night put themselves at higher risk of developing insulin resistance and tend to weigh more than people who get more sleep. For example, the Quebec Family Study published in the journal Sleep in April 2008 showed that study participants who slept for five to six hours a night gained 88 percent more weight over six years than people who slept seven to eight hours a night. (Interestingly, the people who slept more than nine hours a night also gained 71 percent more weight – not quite as much as the shorter sleepers, though enough to suggest there may be an optimal sleeping time to prevent obesity.) Why would this be? There are several possible reasons:

  • Getting an adequate amount of sleep puts the body into a better hormonal balance.
  • People crave carbs if they don’t sleep well at night and overconsumption can lead to excess weight.
  • Not getting enough sleep can make people too tired to exercise.

Many people say they can’t get enough sleep because they’re too busy and need to get too many things done. But others are sleep-deprived for a medical reason – they may have sleep apnea, a condition where the muscles in the back of the throat close up at night when they’re sleeping and the body gets deprived of oxygen temporarily. This causes someone to wake up gasping for air, sometimes five or six times a minute. Not only will this make the person more tired and possibly lead to weight gain, but it also increases risk of cancer and other diseases. This is because the body does not get the chance to go into the deeper sleep called REM (rapid eye movement), when the immune system can do surveillance and destroy cells that may lead to cancer.

If you’re sleeping at least eight hours a night and still feel fatigued, talk to your doctor about being tested for sleep apnea – an overnight sleep study is the best way to diagnose this condition.

Better Sleep Tips

If you’re not getting enough sleep, try these tips to improve both your sleeping habits and your overall health:

  • Stick to a sleep schedule. Try to go to bed and get up at around the same time every day, even on weekends. This can help you fall asleep more easily at night.
  • Don’t eat or drink large amounts before bedtime. Try not to eat within two hours of sleep. If you often have heartburn, avoid spicy or fatty foods that could affect the quality of your sleep.
  • Get regular exercise. Aerobic exercise can help you fall asleep faster and have a more restful sleep. Just be sure to avoid exercise within two hours of going to bed.
  • Start a relaxing bedtime routine. Do the same things each night to let your body know it’s time to wind down. This could include reading a book, listening to music, or taking a warm bath or shower 90 minutes before you go to bed.

Your Center for Medical Weight Loss (CMWL) can give you other helpful suggestions for getting a good night’s sleep while you work toward your weight loss goals.


Next Steps:

Calculate how much weight you can lose in six weeks.
Try these tips to boost your metabolism.
Find a center near you to schedule a consultation with a CMWL physician.



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