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By Marc Braman, MD, MPH

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MB (Marc Braman, MD, MPH):
Our topic this session is “You Snooze, You Lose, Weight,” that is. Thank you for joining us, Dr. Gurley.

VG (Virginia Gurley, MD, MPH):
Thank you, Dr. Braman.

MB:
A key benefit of a healthy lifestyle is that it helps us maintain a healthy body weight.  Clearly diet and physical activity have powerful effects on body weight, but what about sleep, does sleep have an effect on body weight?

VG:
Yes, it does. Sleep has powerful effects on the body weight. The most obvious one is through its influence on activity level. When we don’t get enough quality sleep, we usually feel tired and are much less likely to be physically active.

MB:
Ok, that’s pretty straight forward. How else does sleep affect our body weight?

VG:
There are several ways that sleep affects hunger and metabolism, which in term affects how well your body uses the energy you take in as food. For instance, when sleep is shortened to less than 6 hours, appetite is increased so strongly that healthy adults will eat 300 to 500 more calories than usual. Not only does short sleep increase hunger, but it specifically increases hunger for calorie dense carbohydrates.

MB:
Wow, that’s a lot of extra calories and obviously, kinds that we don’t want to be binging on. Weight control is challenging for many people, and having your appetite increased from not getting enough sleep certainly makes it even harder. You also mentioned that sleep affects metabolism, and how the body uses food to produce or store energy. How does sleep affect metabolism?

VG:
Well, it seems counterintuitive that sleep, which is a time during which we are, of course, inactive, has an effect on metabolism. But actually, there are a few different ways sleep affects metabolism. First, when we stay up late, we are exposed to more light at night. Longer total hours of light, like what happens seasonally during the summertime, seems to cause our metabolism to slow down so more calories are stored as fat. Before the days of grocery stores and heated homes, storing up a good reserve of fat during the summer to get through the winter, when it was cold and food is in short supply, that really helped improve survival.

MB:
Ok, that makes a lot of sense. That’s interesting. How else does sleep affect metabolism?

VG:
When we sleep 6 or fewer hours, the blood sugar-controlling hormone insulin does not work as well – this is also called insulin resistance. When insulin resistance occurs sugar is more likely to be stored as fat, and that does not help with maintaining a healthy body weight at all!

MB:
Obviously, yes. So, for our listeners, instead of buying those “fat burner” supplements that the FDA rarely seems to get around to cracking down on like they should, how about supplementing a healthy lifestyle with some  “fat burner” Zs, as in extra sleep. We can get our metabolism tune-up from quality sleep, instead of a capsule and you can use sleep as lifestyle medicine as part of an effective weight loss plan.  Thank you so much, Dr. Gurley!

VG:
Thank you, Dr. Braman.

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