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Insomnia and Weight Gain

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Sleep is essential as this is the time when the human body replenishes. The mental and physical wear and tear are repaired. Today many persons are 'always on' due to technological advancement in the form of mobile phones, computers, PDAs, 24-hour cable television and these keep their brains stimulated all the time. The result of lack of sleep is fatigue, poor health, and above all, unexpected weight gain.


Many of us believe that long sleep duration can result in increased weight gain. But the contrary is quite true. Studies across the globe confirm the connection between short sleeping and weight gain.


The American Thoracic Society International conference held in 2006 reveals over the course of a16-year study that women who slept 5 hours per night were 32% more likely to experience major weight gain and 15% more likely to become obese compared to those who slept 7 hours a night.


Short sleep weight gain

Perhaps the largest study to track the effects of sleep habits on weight gain over a period of time was presented by the American Thoracic Society International Conference in 2006. The study that included nearly 70,000 middle aged women specifically pointed out those women who sleep 5 hours or less per night generally weigh more than women who sleep 7 hours per night.


If you want to lose weight, you need to get enough sleep. And even a small difference in weight can increase a person's risk of health problems such as diabetes and hypertension.


As sleeping less tends to affect a person's metabolic rate, the number of calories burnt when resting is very less. Sleep has an impact on cortisol levels. Insufficient sleep can cause the release of additional cortisol, the stress hormone and this can stimulate hunger.


According to the National Sleep Foundation, chronic sleep deprivation can impact metabolism and overall health. And getting less sleep on a regular basis can result in weight gain, especially for people who do not have disciplined diet habits.


Insomnia weight gain

Insomnia includes within its scope sleep disorders, lack of quantity and quality of sleep. While insomnia can affect all age groups, it tends to be more common in adult women than adult men. Insomnia can be caused by physical and psychological factors. While a chronic underlying medical condition can cause chronic insomnia, transient insomnia may be a recent event or occurrence. The condition of insomnia can lead to poor performance at work or school, depression, anxiety and above all obesity.



What can insomnia/inadequate sleep do?
  • Inadequate sleep interferes with the body's ability to metabolize carbohydrates and this causes high blood levels of glucose, which in turn leads to higher insulin levels and greater body fat storage.

  • Insomnia reduces levels of growth hormone, a protein that help to regulate the body's proportions of fat and muscle.

  • Insomnia can lead to insulin resistance and contribute to increased risk of diabetes

  • It can increase blood pressure.

  • It can increase the risk of coronary heart disease.


Sleep, hormones and weight gain

Exploring the connection between short sleeping and weight gain, insufficient sleep affects the secretion of certain hormones called ghrelin and leptin which govern both the sensation of hunger and feeling full. When this is disrupted, there is a tendency to eat more and yet feel less full.


In short, hormone leptin suppresses appetite while grehlin increases appetite. When lack of sleep becomes a chronic problem, levels of grehlin increases and causes greater appetite and levels of leptin decreases. Sleep loss leads to increased ghrelin and decreased leptin, leading to a 'double whammy' effect that stimulates appetite. Obesity is thus caused and made worse by sleep deprivation. These two hormones, can set the stage for overeating, which in turn may lead to weight gain.


Sleep well and prevent weight gain

Getting sleep problems diagnosed and treated is the first step towards accomplishing weight loss goals. To monitor the sleeping pattern in individuals, sleep labs are available for evaluation. If diagnosed with sleep apnea, the doctor can prescribe one or a combination of therapies. While regular exercises should improve the quality of sleep, so will elimination of alcohol, caffeine and tobacco.


Some physical causes, like enlarged tonsils may obstruct the airway and cause sleep apnea. Sometimes a doctor may prescribe sleep medications to help sleep through the night. But these may cause side effects such as weight gain. It is important to discuss with the doctor of the risks and benefits of such medication before consuming them.


Anxiety weight gain


Millions of people around the world are affected by anxiety. While exercise, meditations and therapies help cure anxiety at early stages, panic bouts of anxiety calls for medications.


Those suffering from anxiety and other mental health disorders are more likely to gain weight over time and become obese. Researchers who followed more than 4,000 British civil servants for almost two decades in one of the longest studies ever to examine the impact of mental health and obesity, found that those people with anxiety and related mental disorders were the most likely to become obese. In fact, these were the people who became twice as obese at the final screening after 19 odd years when the reports were released.


The most common method of treatment used by doctors to cure anxiety is medication. However, there are certain side effects that can be caused by medication which includes memory loss, dizziness and weight gain.


Menopausal anxiety and weight gain

Many women are afraid that they will be less of a woman or less attractive to their partners as menopause begins. The depletion of hormones during this menopause period can cause anxiety - about health, aging in general and when illness like osteoporosis occurs. Anxiety can make a woman more irritable, and cause a craving to overeat foods. And eating more calories than she can burn off will lead to weight gain.


There is also the danger of feeling less energetic and becoming less active. A reduction of appetite coupled with decreased appetite will cause weight gain. There is increased risk of heart disease stroke, blood pressure which can cause more anxiety and depression.


An anxiety attack can be cured with the help of exercise. Daily exercise helps reduce anxiety levels and it is recommended to undertake at least 30 minutes of exercise daily.


Depression weight gain

Whereas among the US population, obesity rate is in the 25% to 35% range, the rate of obesity among people with significant depression is twice as that. After anxiety, depression is probably the most common mental health disorder contributing to weight gain. An episode of depression typically lasts from 4-6 months but sometimes can even last up to 2 years or more.


Women are twice as likely as men to experience depression. Changes in hormone levels which cause mood swings shortly before menstruation and after childbirth play a major role in women. Abnormal thyroid function which is another common factor among women is also a factor of concern.


Very often depression causes loss of sleep and its treatment with certain medication may cause weight gain. Based on a study conducted in the US, it is found that 2.3% of those sleeping for 7-8 hours a night show depressive symptoms, 6.7% who slept fewer than 5 hours every night and 3.8% who sleep for 5-6 hours a night and 4.9% who slept greater than 9 hours a night have depressive symptoms. And insufficient sleep by itself can lead to depressive symptoms.


Common symptoms of depression include increased appetite and decreased physical activity. These two factors lead to weight gain, while on the rebound, the stigma attached to obesity may contribute to depression.


Alcohol weight gain

Alcohol is a significant source of calories. Alcohol like beer, rum, whiskey and the like contain calories which certainly transform the unused energy and help in developing fat. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveals that men who drank thirty or more grams of alcohol per day ran a higher risk of obesity.


Weight gain cannot be simply construed as part of aging. Instead, changes in lifestyle, healthy eating and getting enough exercise can certainly prevent or reduce the typical weight gain. It is imperative to check with the physician before consuming drugs for anxiety and depression disorders as these can also contribute to weight gain. Walking, jogging, dancing, and swimming help increase blood circulation, keep joints working and help sleep well. Increased circulation, increased stamina and a relaxed state of mind results in good sleep.


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