Can less sleep cause weight loss?

Weight loss is associated with less sleep, but it goes both ways.

“That’s a great question because in humans it often doesn’t matter whether you have less sleep or more sleep and some of that goes into the diet as well,” said lead author Dr. Svetlana Ivanova, an assistant professor in the department of psychology at the University of Vermont, and a board member for Sleep and Nutrition Associates in Burlington. “There are many ways it can make people feel sick and it’s not a bad thing.”

But some people aren’t so susceptible to a lack of sleep. In a 2009 study, researchers looked at over 70,000 middle-aged men and women who were enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study. These participants were followed up for up to 11 years, with no exercise for the first three years and regular exercise for the final three years. After controlling for weight, height and other factors, people who were on the lower end of the spectrum — those classified as having less than 7 hours of sleep per night at night — reported feeling more depressed, suffering from fewer physical symptoms and experiencing higher levels of anxiety. By contrast, a study published last year in The American Journal of Epidemiology found that people with a healthy sleep schedule had a greater likelihood of not falling into the moderate to heavy category: A person who sleeps less than 7 hours a night on average is classified as being in this category by almost a 3-to-1 margin.

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