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Research: More sleep can lead to weight loss



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SALT LAKE CITY -- Grandma told us "Early to bed, early to rise makes one healthy, wealthy and wise!" But should we now add "makes one lose weight" to the old saying as well? Some researchers believe there may be something to this thing called sleep.

Researchers already know what sleep deprivation can do: sleep too little and you'll feel washed out and tired the next day. But does the actual mechanism of sleep, when you get enough, help you lose weight?

At the University of Utah Sleep-Wake Center, Ann Jeppson was treated for a condition called sleep apnea. A breathing device now converts her sleepless nights into eight hours of full sleep.

Though weight loss was never the intent here, it was a pleasant side effect Jeppson didn't expect.

"I've lost seven pounds and I've only been on it a week," she said. "I don't feel like I need to snack, you know? When you're tired or you don't feel well, I think one of the comfort foods is snacking."

Enter Glamour Magazine with its own independent study. Six women from 25 to 35 years of age made no changes in their diet or exercise but got seven and a half to eight hours sleep per night for 10 weeks. One lost 15 pounds, another seven, another 10, another six, another 12, and one another lost nine.

At the University of Utah Sleep-Wake Center, Dr. Paul Teman says there's no scientific proof sleep by itself peels off the pounds, but some studies show if you don't get enough you might gain weight. It may involve a play on two hormones called ghrelin and leptin.

"Sleep deprivation affects those hormones, causing an increase in ghrelin. So, the gas is on and then the leptin is low, that's the brake, and the brake is off so you eat more," Teman explained.

Then again, maybe it isn't so much hormonal changes but just the fact that the extra sleep makes your body feel better. You're more alert. You have the incentive to get out and walk and run, perhaps even eat better food.

"If I don't sleep then I don't exercise. I'm too tired. It's kind of like a circle," a jogger named Maja told us.

Another jogger we talked to, Kevin, said, "If you get seven or eight hours of sleep, you have more energy to exercise during the day."

While in medical school, Teman was sleeping less and weighed 215 pounds. Later, with regular and full sleep, he dropped to 170 pounds. "Instead of coming home and taking a nap, I thought, ‘Well, I'll go for a walk instead.' And that walk turned into jogging," he said.

One thing is certain through all this talk: believing you can just sleep more while eating what you want and avoiding exercise will not bring the weight down.

According to researchers at Case Western University in Cleveland, those who shorten their shut eye to five hours or less per night are 30 percent more likely to gain 30 or more pounds compared to those who get a full night's sleep.

Researchers agree more study is needed to see exactly where sleep fits in to weight loss.

E-mail: eyeates@ksl.com

Ed Yeates

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