Does Getting Enough Sleep Help You Lose Weight?

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“Does Getting Enough Sleep
Help You Lose Weight?” In my last video, I featured
a study that found that curtailing sleep can cut your
rate of body fat loss in half while exacerbating the
loss of lean mass. To get better insight into what was
going on, researchers took fat and muscle biopsies from people
after a night of sleep loss. In terms of genes that
were turned on and off, molecular signatures
were discovered suggesting muscle breakdown
and fat buildup. That was after an
all-nighter, though, and in the weight-loss study,
the sleep-restricted groups ended up getting little
more than 5 hours a night.


What about a more realistic
scenario like sleeping just like one hour
less a night? Overweight adults were
randomized to 8 weeks of a calorie-restricted
diet or the same diet combined with just 5 days a week
of one hour a night less sleep. The sleep-restricted group achieved
one hour a day less sleep on weekdays but ended up sleeping
an hour more on the weekend days. So overall, they just cut about
3 hours of sleep out of their week. Would just those few hours a week
make any weight loss difference? On the scale, no, but in
the normal sleep group, 80% of the weight loss was fat, whereas in the group just
missing a few hours of sleep a week it was the opposite—
80% of the loss was lean.


This shows that a few hours of
“catch-up sleep” on the weekends is insufficient, and may
be contributing to the problem based on the “social jetlag” effect
I explored this in a previous video. A comparable study
was designed for kids, but the sleeping periods
only lasted a week. Eight- to eleven-year-olds
were randomized to either increase or decrease their time
in bed by 1.5 hours per night for a week and then
switch the following week. They ate an average of 134 calories
more on the days they slept less and gained in that
week about half a pound compared to the sleep-more week. The question then becomes would
sleeping more facilitate weight loss? When it comes to body fat,
can we just, sleep it off? The benefit of interventional
studies is that you can demonstrate cause and effect, but
observational studies can allow you to easily track
people and their behaviors over a longer period.


For example, researchers
followed a group of mostly overweight individuals
who started to average less than six hours of sleep
a night for more than five years. During that time, about
half maintained that schedule but the other half increased
their sleep duration up to seven or eight hours a night and
ended up gaining 5 pounds less fat. A study entitled “Sleeping habits
predict the magnitude of fat loss” (among those cutting calories) found that every
an extra hour of sleep at night was associated with
an extra 1-and-a-half pounds of weight loss over a period
of about 3 to 6 months. That’s not the same as randomizing
people to extra sleep, though.



Maybe they were sleeping more
because they were exercising more and that’s the real reason
did they lose more weight? Getting people to bump their
sleep from about 5.5 hours up to 7 can lead to an overall decrease
in appetite within two weeks, particularly for sugary
and salty foods. A four-week study getting
habitually short sleepers to sleep about an extra hour a night
led them to consume about two fewer spoonfuls worth
of sugar a day compared to the control group but
this didn’t translate into any changes in
body composition. A twelve-week study,
on the other hand, randomizing overweight
and obese individuals to a weight loss intervention
with or without a sleep component found that the sleep group lost
weight significantly faster.


A national cross-sectional
the survey suggested lower obesity rates among kids in households that
regularly ate dinner together as a family, getting adequate
sleep, and limited screen times, so Harvard researchers
decided to try to… put those behaviors
to the test. A six-month randomized trial
to improve household routines for obesity prevention among young
children resulted in a lower BMI. Normally it’s hard to
tease out the effects of multi-component
interventions, but in this case exhortations to limit overall
TV watching didn’t work, and the families were already
eating together 6 days a week and so that didn’t
change much either. The only thing they
were able to get the kids to significantly alter
was their sleep, and so the improved weight
outcomes may be attributed at least in part to the ¾ hour
the average increase in nightly sleep. Overall, most sleep
improvement interventions tended to show
improved weight loss. I was intrigued to look up
the one study that didn’t. The nice thing about
systematic reviews (as opposed to so-called
“narrative” reviews) is that they exhaustively
include mention of every study that meets some
prespecified criteria. This keeps reviewers
from cherry-picking, but it can also lead to the
inclusion of some strange studies.


In this case, a randomized controlled
trial of didgeridoo playing, the indigenous Australian
wind instrument. Those randomized to the didgeridoo
to improve their sleep quality did not lose any weight, but they also failed to improve
the quality of their sleep (or, likely, that
of their neighbors).

As found on YouTube

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