The Dream Diet: Losing Weight While You Sleep
Can more sleep really help us control our weight? Three top experts explore the possibilities.
Studies: Those Who Sleep Less Often Weigh More continued...
The end result: When sleep was restricted, leptin levels went down and
ghrelin levels went up. Not surprisingly, the men's appetite also increased
proportionally. Their desire for high carbohydrate, calorie-dense foods
increased by a whopping 45%.
It was in the Stanford study, however, that the more provocative meaning of
the leptin-ghrelin effect came to light. In this research -- a joint project
between Stanford and the University of Wisconsin -- about 1,000 volunteers
reported the number of hours they slept each night. Doctors then measured their
levels of ghrelin and leptin, as well as charted their weight.
The result: Those who slept less than eight hours a night not only had lower
levels of leptin and higher levels of ghrelin, but they also had a higher level
of body fat. What's more, that level of body fat seemed to correlate with their
sleep patterns. Specifically, those who slept the fewest hours per night
weighed the most.
Eating and Sleep Apnea: The New Connection
As a result of these and other studies, researchers began to theorize that
getting more sleep just might be the answer to society's burgeoning waistline.
But before you trade the cost of your gym membership for a pricey new mattress,
take note: Experts also say the relationship is not as obvious as it seems.
The reason: Enter the somewhat mysterious nocturnal ailment known as "obstructive sleep apnea." People with sleep apnea may stop breathing
for up to a minute, sometimes hundreds of times during the night while
sleeping, says Dominic Roca, MD, director of the Connecticut Center for Sleep
Medicine at Stamford Hospital.
Though the exact cause of the problem remains unknown, Roca and others
believe that in most instances physical abnormalities inside the mouth and neck
cause the soft tissue in the rear of the throat to collapse. This briefly
closes off air passages many times during a night, causing disruption in
breathing and a tendency to snore.
The end result: Although you may go to bed early and think you are getting a
good night's rest, the disruption in breathing prevents you from getting deep
sleep. Eight hours of disrupted shut eye can leave you feeling like you had
"You wake up feeling tired and continue to feel tired all day," Roca tells
The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Weight
So what does sleep apnea have to do with weight gain?
First, says Roca, patients who suffer from sleep apnea are more likely to be
obese. However, studies show they do not have the usual
low leptin levels associated with being overweight. In fact, Roca says that
folks with sleep apnea have uncharacteristically high levels of leptin.
What's more, when their apnea is treated, leptin levels drop -- and somehow
that helps them to lose weight.