Two recent papers1,2 have strengthened the connection between sleep and weight management. Published in reputable journals, these studies look at how we burn and consume calories based on sleep duration. One study restricted the amount of sleep while the other increased sleep time – with strikingly similar conclusions. Less sleep led to weight gain as participants consumed more and burnt fewer calories. The weight gained was primarily in the abdominal viscera, which leads to poorer health.
Does that mean we simply need to increase our sleep time and shed weight? Yes and No (not that simple).
It is important to understand that sleep is impacted by the amount and quality of sleep. The amount of sleep recommended for adults is 7-9 hours a night. While the quality of sleep can be affected by medication and alcohol use, environmental conditions, sleep timing (night vs day), and medical problems (pain, headache, acid reflux, breathlessness, etc.).
In digesting this new data, I would recommend the following:
Figure out how much sleep you personally need. Go to bed only when sleepy and wake up without an alarm for 2-3 consecutive days. If you are sleep-deprived during the workweek, then using this method over the weekend may not be as accurate. My personal sweet spot is 7.5 hours.
How do you feel the next day?Be honest. You should feel refreshed within minutes of waking up – not dragging, groggy, or in need of a shower or coffee to wake up. This feeling should persist through most of the day except for a short period after lunch. Don’t blame stress, work, age, etc.
Sleep evaluation. Despite adequate sleep duration, if you do not wake up feeling refreshed, then sleep quality may be an issue. Speak to your medical provider or. Sleep conditions such as sleep apnea, insomnia, or restless legs impact our sleep quality, regardless of the duration of sleep. Imagine getting 5 hours of quality sleep out of the 8 hours slept – not a great deal, compounded every night!
These studies1,2 under very controlled conditions remove many of the what-ifs prior studies posed. Just as short-term diet plans usually fail, catching up on sleep over the weekend does not reverse the effect of insufficient sleep during the week. Adequate and quality sleep should be an integral part of your health. Breathe well, sleep soundly.
Written by: Avinesh S Bhar, MD
About the author
Dr. Bhar is fellowship-trained and board-certified in sleep, critical care and pulmonary medicine. He has been in practice for over seven years and established a telemedicine practice founded on personalized, convenient, and cost-effective sleep and pulmonary care.
At Sliiip, our practice allows for video consultation, diagnosis, and follow up care – from the comfort of anywhere. Our , Dr. Bhar, believes that high-quality care only comes from a trustful physician-patient relationship.
- Effects of Experimental Sleep Restriction on Energy Intake, Energy Expenditure and Visceral Obesity. Naima Covassin, PhD, Virend K Somers MD, PhD et al. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, vol. 79, no.13, 2022.
- Effect of Sleep Extension on Objectively Assessed Energy Intake Among Adults with Overweight in Real-life Settings. Esra Tasali, MD, Dale Schoeller PhD et al. JAMA Intern Med. Doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2021.8098