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Women Who Don't Snooze Enough Gain Weight

Posted: Friday, June 02, 2006

Not enough sleep for women may lead to extra pounds over the years, researchers reported.

Women who slept five hours or less per night gained 1.14 kg (2.5 lb) more than women who got in at least seven hours each night. That's the finding of researchers from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland from a 16-year study.

The data on 68,183 middle-age women enrolled in the Nurses' Health Study represented the largest study to track the effects of sleeping habits on weight gain over time.

The investigators found that weight gain appeared to have something of a dose-dependent effect. Women who slept six hours gained 0.71 1 kg (1.6 lbs) compared with women who slept for seven hours or more.

The average weight gain in the women who slept the least "may not sound like much, but it is an average amount," said Sanjay Patel, M.D. "Some women gained much more than that, and even a small difference in weight can increase a person's risk of health problems such as diabetes and hypertension." The study cohort included women who in 1986 reported their habitual sleep duration. The women were then followed for 16 years, with weight being reported every two years.

"What we saw was that at baseline the women who slept less than seven hours weighed more than the women who slept seven hours or more," Dr. Patel said at a briefing. At the study outset, the women who reported getting just five hours of sleep weighed 2.45 kg (5.4 lb) on average more than women who slept for seven hours or more.

"As we followed them in time, the ones who slept less in 1986 gained weight at a more rapid pace than women who slept longer," Dr. Patel said. They found that the relative risks for a 15 kg (33 lb) weight gain compared with seven-hour plus sleepers were 1.32 (95% confidence interval, 1.19-1.47) for five-hour sleepers, and 1.12 (95% CI, 1.06-1.19) for six-hour sleepers.

Similarly, those who got in only five hours of nightly slumber had a relative risk of incident obesity (body mass index > 30 kg/m2) of 1.15 (95% CI, 1.04-1.26), and six-hour sleepers had a relative risk of 1.06 (95% CI, 1.01-1.11).

The associations between sleep duration and weight gain persisted even after controlling for multiple covariates such as snoring (a marker for sleep apnea), caffeine consumption, smoking, alcohol use, socioeconomic status, and medication use, the authors found.

"There have been several hypotheses about why sleeping less may predispose you to gaining weight," Dr. Patel said. "In short term—just over two nights of sleep deprivation—studies have suggested hormone levels controlling appetite are disregulated, suggesting that sleeping less in the short term may predispose you to be more hungry and so you may eat more."

But the authors collected data on diet, and found that contrary to what might be expected, women who slept less had lower total caloric intake than women who slept more.

They also collected information about exercise, and saw a bell-shaped curve. Women who slept seven hours participated in exercise more than women who slept either less than five hours or more than nine hours, but these differences were relatively modest and could not explain the differences in weight levels.

Less sleep may also affect the basal metabolism rate to lower energy expenditures in those who get less rest, he added

Practice Pearls:

slept only five hours per night gained significantly more weight, and gained weight at a more rapid pace over 16 years, than women who slept seven or more hours per night.
Point out that observational studies cannot determine cause and effect of an association.
This study was published as an abstract and presented orally at a conference. These data and conclusions should be considered to be preliminary as they have not yet been reviewed and published in a peer-reviewed publication.

Source: Diabetes In Control: 2006 American Thoracic Society Annual Meeting: Patel SR et al. "Short Sleep is a Risk Factor for Weight Gain" Presented May 23, 2006

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