When you are determining your plan to avoid those extra holiday pounds this year, is adequate sleep in the picture? There have been several interesting studies in recent years showing increased incidence of obesity in sleep-deficient populations. Some of the suspected reasons for this are:
Tendency towards overeating from being awake more hours and also being awake late at night
Lesser production of appetite suppressing hormones that are produced during sleep
Less recovery and repair of body tissues
The correlation between less sleep and higher stress levels (since we know stress inhibits fat-burning by increasing cortisol production)
Less daytime physical energy leading to lower physical activity levels
Some of the more recent studies done happened to target abdominal fat, younger adults and minority populations, showing similar results as past research, such as: Participants who slept less than 5 hours a night experienced a 32% increase in abdominal fat over 5 years.
But before you think that gives you a license to sleep in… the same study showed that those who averaged more than 8 hours of sleep increased by 22%. Well, all I know is those people must not have children! And I suppose you do really limit your physical activity calories when you are in bed all day.
So this holiday season, since we already know sugar and alcohol calories will directly increase the belly fat, plan enough space in your celebration schedule for some rest.
Hairston, K.G., et al (2010) Sleep Duration and Five-Year Abdominal Fat Accumulation in a Minority Cohort: The IRAS Family Study. Sleep. 33(03): 289-295.
Amy Norton. (2010) Sleep habits linked to fat gain in younger adults. Reuters Health. March 1st.