A new study released Tuesday in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that sleeping may help one to lose fat. The study compared two groups of people who were trying to lose weight. One group was assigned to sleep 5.5 hours each night for two weeks, while the other was able to sleep 8.5 hours. The scientists found that the sleep deprived people had higher levels of ghrelin. It may be this hormone that drives appetite that leads to excess eating, believe researchers.
Dr. Plamen D. Penev, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago and the senior author of the study said, “The bottom line is that if people are trying to diet and lose weight for health reasons, it makes sense to get a sufficient amount of sleep…If they're not getting enough sleep as they diet, they may have higher levels of hunger and be struggling to adhere to the regimen.”
The encouraging finding was that while both groups lost about 6.5 lbs. over the course of the experiment – the well rested group lost more weight from fat than the sleep deprived group. Another interesting fact was that participants had to spend their nightly assigned sleep hours in bed, but not necessarily sleeping. Resting suppresses ghrelin just as well, it was noted. Although the study included only 10 adults aged 35 to 49, the findings may be beneficial for further large scale studies.
In an earlier study from the Journal Sleep, it was noted that sleeping in after a few days of missed sleep can help pay back the sleep debt. Study co author David Dinges, chief of the division of sleep and chronobiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine says, “The brain has a built-in reflex that helps you sleep deeper and longer when you're sleep deprived…This recovery sleep seems to have a genuine benefit to restoring alertness.”
Considering all the health benefits of sleep experts recommend going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, keeping a routine before sleeping, limiting caffeine and alcohol and figuring out the number of hours of sleep that is needed.