View Count: 133 |  Publish Date: July 14, 2013
Check Up: Night owls likely to gain weight, study finds
Curtis Skinner, Inquirer Staff WriterPosted: Sunday, July 14, 2013, 1:08 AM
Adults who stay up until the wee hours and then get too little sleep may gain weight because of late-night eating to fight sleepiness, a University of Pennsylvania study suggests.
The study, conducted in a sleep laboratory, was designed to see how sleep deprivation might affect eating patterns and weight gain. For five days and nights, 198 volunteers were allowed to sleep only from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m., while 27 subjects sleep time was 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. All volunteers were given hospital-prepared meals and had free access to food and drinks - including cookies and chips - in the lab kitchen.
"I was surprised to see significant weight gain in this relatively short amount of time" among short sleepers, said Andrea Spaeth, lead author and a doctoral candidate who works in the Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
All the participants had access to some junk foods, she said. But they were all provided healthy, hospital-prepared meals. "They couldnt go to McDonalds or something like that," Spaeth said.
The study noted that the 2004-2007 National Health Interview Survey showed that more than a quarter of adults reported sleeping six hours or fewer per night, a trend that has grown in recent decades. Weight gain is a risk factor for many health problems, leading the American Medical Association to declare obesity a disease last month.
Research has shown a link between sleep loss and late sleeping to increased caloric intake, but few have been controlled laboratory studies that can better reveal cause and effect, Spaeth said.
For this study, published in the July issue of the journal SLEEP, researchers observed 225 healthy, healthy adults ages 22 to 50 for up to 18 days. Those who got 10 hours experienced insignificant weight gains, while the sleep-restricted group gained a little more than two pounds.
Some of the findings may open new windows into the differing effects of sleep restriction across racial and gender lines. Men saw larger weight gains than women, for instance, with white women seeing the smallest increases, just under half a pound. By contrast, African American men gained an average of about three pounds.
"They gained a lot of weight, it was sort of crazy," Spaeth said. This finding is important, the authors noted, because African Americans are more likely to be habitually short sleepers and are at higher risk for obesity.
"This was a controlled lab environment where African Americans and Caucasians had access to the same foods," she said. "So that takes out other factors that are brought up a lot, like socioeconomic differences, or lack of access to healthy foods, because its in this controlled environment."
One limitation of the study was that subjects could not exercise, which would affect weight gain. And participants may not have had access to their preferred meals and snacks, which also could have limited weight gains.
Still, the studys findings "could be helpful to people trying to keep their weight maintained or even trying to lose weight," Spaeth said. "If they force themselves to go to bed at a decent hour, it would help them regulate their caloric intakes, because they wont be eating late at night."
Contact Curtis Skinner at 215-854-2930 or
Curtis SkinnerInquirer Staff Writer #post2 .pw-icon.ra1-pw-icon-reddit {background: url() 0px 0px no-repeat !important;width: 60px !important;height: 20px !important;margin-right:8px;}#post2 .pw-icon.ra1-pw-icon-email {background: url() 0px 0px no-repeat !important;width: 71px !important;height: 28px !important;}0comments

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