Lifewatch: Is sleep a new diet?

Reported by Claire Hosmann - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

(WECT) - If you sleep too little, chances are you'll feel washed out and tired the next day.  But does the actual mechanism of sleep, when you get enough, help you lose weight?

Ann Jeppson was treated at the University of Utah Sleep-Wake Center for a condition called sleep apnea.  Now, a breathing device converts her sleepless nights into eight hours of full sleep.

Though weight loss was never the intent, it was a pleasant side effect she didn't expect.

"I've lost seven pounds and I've only been on it a week," said Jeppson.  "I don't feel like I need to snack. You know, when you're tired or you don't feel well, I think one of the comfort foods is snacking."

Glamour Magazine conducted its own independent study.  Six women from 25-35 years of age made no changes in their diet or exercise, but got 7.5-8 hours of sleep per night for ten weeks.

All of the women lost weight ranging from 6-15 pounds.

At the University of Utah Sleep-Wake Center, Dr. Paul Teman said there's not scientific proof sleep by itself peels of the pounds, but some studies show if you don't get enough you may gain weight.

It may involve a play on two hormones called ghrelin and leptin.

"Sleep deprivation affects those hormones causing an increase in ghrelin - so the gas is on and then the leptin is low - that's the brake and the brake is off so you eat more," said Dr. Teman.

Those who shorten their shut eye to five hours or less per night are 30% more likely to gain 30 or more pounds, compared to those who get a full night's sleep.

Researchers agree more study is needed to see exactly where sleep fits in to weight loss.