The Link Between Sleep Deprivation and Belly Fat

This is Elizabeth Hanawalt and I’m coming to you with another research study result that I thought you should know about. This was conducted by the NIH and it’s a study that shows a direct link between sleep deprivation and body fat or belly fat, the evidence linking lack of sleep with abdominal obesity and harmful visceral body fat.

This is a study that had 12 participants who were non obese people who were constructed to only 4 hours of sleep a night for 2 weeks. Then they had a 3 day recovery period. Then for 2 weeks they had 9 hours of sleep. These participants were between 19 and 39 years old. It was done in the hospital and caloric intake and expenditure was monitored.

When the sleep was constricted at the end of 2 weeks, the participants gained about a pound. That doesn’t sound like a lot but that was just in 2 weeks and it was in the belly, which is visceral fat. Visceral fat is among your organs and in your belly and it's the fat that is contributing to metabolic disease because it is a fat that is “bad fat”. It sends off inflammatory markers and leads to things that you really don't want, such as cardio vascular disease, diabetes etc.

It was also found that when the sleep was constricted, the participants ate on average an additional 308 calories a day, which is significant. More so than the 9 hour counterparts. This translated to an increase of 11 % visceral adipose tissue and then that’s not even all of it. They were also followed until day 21 and by day 21 the fat had increased even further. So there's a problem here.

Dr Somers, who's a professor in cardiovascular medicine in the Mayo Clinic said that there’s gotta be some biochemical message in the body that's continuing to send fat to the visceral compartment. What we don't know is whether repetitive episodes of inadequate sleep actually accumulate over the years to give people a preponderance of belly fat and further studies are going to have to be conducted to see if this is a function that may result in cardiovascular disease risk increase. A lot of people are not getting enough sleep so if that accumulates over a lifetime you can end up with a big problem, just from that problem alone. If you have trouble sleeping and if you have insomnia of any kind, you need to address it with your doctor.

Ready to find out more?

As a Diabetes Educator and Nutritionist I help my patients cope with managing their diabetes - whether it's diet, nutrition, supplements, blood sugar, or pump therapy.

Please reach out and contact me if you need support, I truly understand. I live it every day. 

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