Poor sleep may hinder attempts to maintain weight loss, study says

12 May 2022

Sleep And Weight Loss: Poor Sleep May Hinder Attempts To Maintain Weight Loss, Study Says

You may have seen the headline above, or words to that effect, as it has appeared in a number of newspapers and other media sources recently. It relates to the findings of a new study conducted by the University of Copenhagen and presented at the European Congress on Obesity, which suggests better quality and longer sleep can help to maintain long-term weight loss.

The study involved 195 obese adults and aged between 18 and 65, who followed a very low-calorie diet (800 kcal/day) for eight weeks. This resulted in an average weight loss of 12% of bodyweight.

The subjects were then tracked for a year. During this time, their sleep duration was measured using data from wearable monitors while the quality of their sleep was assessed using specialised sleep-quality questionnaire.

The results showed that those subjects who slept for less than six hours a night on average, increased their body mass index (BMI) by 1.3 points after a year in comparison compared to those who slept for more than six hours.

Sleep quality followed a similar pattern, with the BMI of those who reported poor quality sleep increasing by 1.2 points after a year in comparison to who reported good quality sleep.

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This is not the first study to highlight the relationship between body fat and sleep. For example, a study by Nedeltcheva and colleagues in 2010 investigated the effects of sleep restriction on the ability of a calorie reduced diet to reduce body fat in overweight individuals.

The results showed that when sleep duration was reduced to 5.5 hours per night from 8.5 hours, the fraction of weight lost as fat decreased by 55% (1.4 vs. 0.6 kg) while the loss of lean body mass increased by 60% (1.5 vs. 2.4 kg). These changes were also associated with increased hunger, and a reduced oxidation of body fat. In short, the reduction in sleep produced the exact opposite of the desired results, i.e., a reduced ability to burn body fat accompanied by a loss of muscle tissue.

The importance of the relationship between body fat and sleep becomes even more apparent when we consider the record high levels of obesity we are currently experiencing and the fact that previous research has shown that more than a third of adults in the UK do not achieve the recommended amount and quality of sleep.

Most of us will have probably had a sleepless night at some time, but other than making us feel tired the next day, it doesn’t have any significant impact on our health. However, in the long-term, insufficient sleep can increase our risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and depression, in addition to fatigue and difficulty concentrating and decision making.

 A lack of sleep can also have a profound impact on our ability to train and adapt to exercise. For example, the decline in growth hormone levels associated with a reduction in Sleep quality and quantity can result in a loss of muscle mass, an increase in body fat and reduced exercise capacity. It may also inhibit the functioning of the immune system.

Perhaps you find that you are not achieving the recommended amount of sleep, and may be asking yourself how can you address this in the increasingly stressful and frenetic modern world in which we live?

You can find the answer to this question and much more, by simply clicking here to access our free two-part series on the science of sleep