Attempting to lose weight may be more complex than eating less and exercising more. A new study from Oregon found that some participants who had the most trouble dropping 10 pounds on a weight loss program were so stressed or depressed that they slept less than six hours or more than eight hours a night. A total of 472 obese adults over age 30 participated in the study; 83 percent of them were women and a quarter of all the subjects were over 65. The program involved attending weekly group counseling sessions, keeping a food diary, exercising for at least three hours per week and cutting 500 calories a day on a low-fat, low-salt diet that included lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein. On average, participants in the study lost nearly 14 pounds in six months, but those who were so stressed (and depressed) that it affected their sleep were the least likely to lose 10 pounds. The study was published online on March 29, 2011 by the International Journal of Obesity.
My take? These study results aren't surprising. Earlier research has suggested that appetite-regulating hormones are affected by sleep and that sleep deprivation could lead to weight gain. In two studies, people who slept five hours or less per night had higher levels of ghrelin - a hormone that stimulates hunger - and lower levels of the appetite-suppressing hormone leptin than those who slept eight hours per night. Sleeping problems are widespread and stem from all kinds of stress generated by work, school, social demands and personal problems. As this study suggests, reducing your stress and improving your sleep may be a worthwhile approach to weight control.