Sleep and Weight Gain – Are you Getting Enough?

October 17, 2012

Sleep and Weight Gain – Are you Getting Enough? 

 Reference:Annals of Internal Medicine, Monday, Oct 15 2012,  Broussard et al 

 Can’t lose weight and just don’t know why?  Consider your sleep and how much of it you are getting.  This important study builds on other similar studies in that journal.  The study found some very interesting things.  What they did was take seven 23-year-old adults and have them sleep for four nights for either 4.5 or 8.5 hours with controlled exercise and calorie intake.   At the end of those four days, they nabbed a tiny sample of fat to study.  

What they found was huge!    In just four days of sleep deprivation, they showed a 30% increase in insulin resistance. Consider the epidemiology of sleep.  Twenty percent of Americans claim they only need 5 hours or less.  At least that is all they are getting. And that’s the story.  Insulin resistance means you start doing goofy things with your metabolism.  Your insulin is meant to drive glucose into fat cells for storage.  But when you are insulin resistant, you have to have a higher insulin level, just to get the same response.  Fat cells can’t easily do two things at the same time. They can’t give up fat at the same time they are taking in sugar.  The switch is either on or off.  Sort of like a light switch.  

If you are insulin resistant, your insulin is higher all the time, which means you are in storage mode.  The only way to get the calories you need to feel good is to eat them.  So, you eat a little more.   Voila, weight gain.  But note the details (where the devil always resides).  You ate more because your cells couldn’t get energy and were starving, even though you had calories for burning right there in the fat cells.  You just can’t release them because of your abnormally high level of insulin. 

 This is another nail in the coffin of the simplistic “calories in, calories out” theory of weight gain and weight loss.   Of course, the laws of thermodynamics are real.   And of course, at the end of the day, how much you eat matters.  But the nuance is the whole story of success or failure underneath.  We now know for certain that the type of food you eat has a dramatic effect on insulin levels.  High fat, low-carb diets double your ability to lose weight over other diets.   We also know timing matters.   A low glycemic breakfast sets your tone for the whole day.  Boxed cereal is almost always high glycemic.   We also know you have to have hormones playing in harmonic symphony, with all your hormones in physiological balance.  

And then there is sleep.  Who knew!  A good, healthy, 8 hours of sleep just plain sets your insulin receptors to act in a proper fashion.  Then, your fat cells open up and share some of those precious calories that you need to feel good, energetic, and “top of the morning”. 

 WWW.  What will work for me?  When I’m on vacation and really relaxed, bored even with the slowdown of my hyper-frenetic pace, and I’m stuck in bed, unable to get up, I cheerfully sleep 8 hours and feel great.  But the excuse of saying, “I’m wide awake here at 530 am, might as well get up” may not be serving me well.

Written by John E Whitcomb, MD Brookfield Longevity and Healthy Living Clinic 17585 W North Ave, Suite 160, Brookfield, WI 53045 262-784-5300 Archives at To unsubscribe, please write us back and we’ll take you off the list