Can't keep off the pounds? Make sure you're getting enough sleep

You exercise, don't overeat, maybe you've even tried going gluten-, flour-, sugar- or meat-free — but you still can't drop the extra pounds.

A study published earlier this year in the journal Sleep joins mounting research suggesting that the reason for the extra weight might be a lack of sleep.

Why? For one, studies show that the sleep-deprived — those who fall short of the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night — eat about an additional 200 to 300 calories per day, said Erin Hanlon, a research associate in endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at the University of Chicago:

"We found people who are sleep-deprived have increased eating and increased hunger and craving for high-carb, high fat-foods."

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A lack of sleep also alters your hunger-regulating hormones, ghrelin and leptin.

"Leptin signals satiety. … Following sleep restriction your leptin is lower. So sleep deprivation is associated with telling us we're hungry," Hanlon said. "Ghrelin is the exact opposite — it drives hunger. So when people are sleep-restricted, ghrelin goes up. Sleep deprivation drives these two things to tell us we're hungry."

Sleep deprivation can also increase a risk of diabetes.

"There is extensive literature showing that sleep restriction is associated with impaired glucose metabolism and an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes," Hanlon said, adding that even short-term sleep restriction significantly reduces insulin sensitivity.

And then, of course, you eat more in part because you're awake longer.

"You don't need a lot of extra calories to stay up longer," Hanlon said.

But if you're a compulsive overeater, the extra hours awake can lead to more snacking and eating.

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on March 26, 2016, in the Features section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Can't keep off extra pounds? Perhaps you need extra ZZZs" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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