Sleep More Important Than Diet for Losing Weight?

Published: October 21, 2012

This study suggests that how much you sleep may have a bigger impact on weight gain than how much you eat!

A study presented here at the American Thoracic Society International Conference shows that middle-aged women who sleep 5 or fewer hours each night weigh an average of 5.5 pounds more than those who sleep for at least 7 hours.

"Sleep deprivation has important effects on a patient's health, so clinicians should really ask their patients about their sleep habits," said study presenter Sanjay Patel, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. "Getting a good night's sleep has already been shown to have effects on diabetes and heart disease and now we see it affects weight as well." What had not been clear, he explained, is whether the loss of sleep caused the weight gain or vice versa.

In the study, the researchers studied 68,183 women, aged 40 to 65 years, who were first asked about their typical night's sleep in 1986. As part of routine questionnaires every 2 years for the next 16 years, they were also asked to report their weight.

In addition to weighing more at baseline, the women who slept less tended to gain more weight over time, Dr. Patel reported. After adjustment for age, those who slept for 5 or fewer hours per night gained 3.3 pounds more during the next 10 years than those who slept at least 7 hours per night.

Put another way, the researchers found that the women sleeping 5 or fewer hours per night were 32% more likely to experience major weight gain, defined as an increase of 33 lb. or more, and 15% more likely to become obese during the 16-year study period than the women who slept at least 7 hours per night.

One of the most surprising findings, Dr. Patel said, was that the women who slept less actually ate less as well—and still gained more weight!


ATS 2006 International Conference: Abstract C88. Presented May 23, 2006.

Click here for more information (free registration required).

Jacob Teitelbaum, MD

is one of the world's leading integrative medical authorities on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. He is the lead author of eight research studies on their effective treatments, and has published numerous health & wellness books, including the bestseller on fibromyalgia From Fatigued to Fantastic! and The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. His newest book (June 10, 2024) is You Can Heal From Long COVID. Dr. Teitelbaum is one of the most frequently quoted fibromyalgia experts in the world and appears often as a guest on news and talk shows nationwide including Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, Oprah & Friends, CNN, and Fox News Health.

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