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Diet and weight loss more likely with a good night's sleep

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Weight loss success depends on a good night's sleep.

Getting a good night’s sleep may be important for anyone trying to diet for weight loss. A new study shows lack of sleep activates an area of the brain that makes us hungry. Acute lack of sleep – even for one night – could thwart efforts to lose weight, shown in the new study, and suggested in past studies. Combined research shows diet and exercise may not be enough when it comes to tackling obesity.

According to the new finding, from Uppsala University, Sweden researchers, MRI studies show acute lack of sleep activates an area of the brain that influences hunger.

Not getting enough sleep – even for one night – was shown in a previous study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, to decrease energy expenditure the next day in normal healthy males.

Christian Benedict and Helgi Schiöth, of the Department of Neuroscience at the University also showed that lack of sleep leads to increased hunger.

According to Benedict, findings from their newest investigation revealed, “After a night of total sleep loss, these males showed a high level of activation in an area of the brain that is involved in a desire to eat.”

The study participants were shown images of food during the brain scans, with and without a good night’s sleep.

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Benedict adds, “Bearing in mind that insufficient sleep is a growing problem in modern society, our results may explain why poor sleep habits can affect people’s risk to gain weight in the long run. It may therefore be important to sleep about eight hours every night to maintain a stable and healthy body weight.”

But the study is not the first to link poor sleep to weight gain.

Eliminating stress and ensuring good sleep hygiene was also found to be important for weight loss in a study published in the International Journal of Obesity; conducted by Kaiser Permanente.

In the two part LIFE study, investigators found clinicians could help patients tackle obesity by helping them manage stress, sleep and depression. The second phase of the study is ongoing in 2012.The DASH diet - Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension - was also incorporated into the Kaiser Permanente LIFE study.

Getting at least 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night should be considered an important target for tackling obesity. Diet and and 180 minutes of regular exercise each week may not be enough when it comes to meeting your weight loss goals.

Christian Benedict et al.
JCEM: doi: 10.1210/jc.2011-2759
"Acute Sleep Deprivation Enhances the Brain's Response to Hedonic Food Stimuli: An fMRI Study"
January 18, 2012

International Journal of Obesity: doi:10.1038/ijo.2011.6
"Impact of sleep, screen time, depression and stress on weight change in the intensive weight loss phase of the LIFE study
March 27, 2011

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