Karine Spiegel, PhD, and colleagues published an article in the December 7, 2004 issue of the Annuals of Internal Medicine that suggests that sleep restriction can lead to weight gain. They found that sleep restriction (4 hrs /night) leads to decreased levels of the hormone Leptin and increased levels of Ghrelin, another hormone. The alteration of the levels of these appetite and energy regulating hormones was associated with increased hunger and appetite in the study. This study adds to the evidence linking insufficient sleep to obesity. Other studies have linked sleep restriction to impaired glucose tolerance and diabetes mellitus.
It is important for physicians to counsel their overweight and obese patients to allow for at least 8 hours of sleep per night. Since obstructive sleep apnea is both a cause and consequence of obesity, practitioners should screen their obese patients for this common disorder. Useful symptoms to ask about include snoring and excessive daytime sleepiness.