Big Fat Sleep

No, it’s not news that lack of sleep is tied to fat.

What sleep researcher Dr. Orfeu Buxton found is more information on how this occurs.

The resting metabolic rate of the volunteers by the end of the five weeks was 8% lower than where they had started. […]  That could explain why night shift workers tend to gain more weight and have a higher likelihood of obesity than day workers; such weight gain is linked to an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Wow, it’s like the number of calories burned isn’t standard across all bodies at all times!  Or not just affected by exercise!

The scientists learned something else interesting about another mechanism that put the disrupted sleepers at higher risk of diabetes: the combination of having their circadian clocks reversed (sleeping during the day and waking at night) and the poorer sleep they got as a result had an effect on their insulin levels. After three weeks in the lab, the participants produced about a third less insulin from the pancreas in response to meals; with less insulin available to break down glucose, blood glucose levels started to rise and three of the 21 volunteers showed high enough levels to qualify them as pre-diabetic.

Two things struck me about this.  First is that it occurred after 3 weeks.  Second is that only 3 of the 21 volunteers reached the pre-diabetic range, even though they were all living in the same lab undergoing the same regimen.  Again, it’s like they’re individuals or something.

7 thoughts on “Big Fat Sleep

  1. Second is that only 3 of the 21 volunteers reached the pre-diabetic range, even though they were all living in the same lab undergoing the same regimen. Again, it’s like they’re individuals or something.

    Seriously. My brother and I are both morning people by proclivity and have both spent stretches of our life getting disrupted sleep. (He has two small children and a third one coming soon; I worked from 5-12 midnight for three years and was generally too wired to go to sleep before 2 a.m.)

    His metabolism slowed down. Mine ratcheted up, messed up my hunger cues, and made me feel vaguely nauseated most of the time. He gained weight, and I lost it. We were both stressed out and cranky (which I have since then learned is a pretty solid marker of blood-sugar fluctuation in my family). Our bodies responded to that stimulus in two very different ways, because we’re people, rather than bunsen burners.

  2. Thanks for posting this. (Well, thanks for the whole blog.)

    I wonder if this is a significant or even the most significant link between poverty and obesity. Outside of hospitals, there are far fewer night time and even second shift white collar jobs. And for example single parents are more likely to be poor and don’t have anyone to share the burden of sleep disruption from children.

    But in any case, considering Health At Every Size I think we all need to ensure we get enough sleep to reduce our risk of type 2 diabetes.

    • Thanks for posting this. (Well, thanks for the whole blog.)

      Thanks!

      But in any case, considering Health At Every Size I think we all need to ensure we get enough sleep to reduce our risk of type 2 diabetes.

      Personally I think “feeling better” and “not wanting to hit everyone” are good reasons too ;)

  3. It’s interesting that the mechanism was less production of insulin and not less sensitivity to insulin. My understanding is that the way Type II diabetes works is that you’re producing more-than-normal amounts of insulin, but you lose your insulin sensitivity so even those amounts are not enough. It sounds like the sleep/circadian disruption would cause more people to be diagnosed without actually causing more of the disease. Although I guess that the high blood sugar is what causes damage, so if it’s high enough at diagnosis to be causing damage it would still be a problem.

  4. I realize this post is months old, but I recently had a fat-unfriendly interaction with my doctor that led me to searching for some things online.

    I have a circadian rhythm disorder, delayed phase. This means my body clock is set about 4-5 hours later than “normal” people. My body naturally wants to sleep from 4am to 12:30pm. Circadian rhythms control not only sleep, but also body temperature, hunger cues, chemical releases, etc. I’ve been trying therapy for over half a year to adjust my clock to an earlier time, but have been feeling like crap lately.

    At my latest visit, my doctor noticed my recent weight gain. I’ve noticed this myself, but as I try to adhere to size acceptance and HAES, instead of freaking out and dieting (which I would have done in the past) I bought some new, better-fitting clothes, and came up with some questions for my doctor. I wanted to understand if there were any theories about health, nutrition, and hunger when dealing with working against the body’s natural clock, e.g. why I feel gross and sick when I try to eat before 10am, even if my stomach is growling at me, and why I still don’t have any energy or mental alertness to do the things I want.

    My doctor proceeds to give me diet tips. He asks me about my eating habits, what exercise I get, how much soda I drink, etc. He used the phrase “calories in, calories out” and suggested I find a gym in my area, stop eating so many carbs, and curb my food intake. He actually recommended I read up on the fit2fat2fit guy as inspiration, since he now so clearly understands what it’s like to be fat. I’m supposed to bring a food journal in addition to my sleep diary for my next appointment.

    I’m a non-soda-drinking vegetarian who walks at least a couple miles a day; in fact, my movement has increased since I moved from the suburbs into the city, and can walk more places. I just wanted to know how circadian rhythms can affect health and related issues. I don’t want to go on a diet! I want to be healthy.

    My apologies for practically writing a book, but your post and links to articles are the last little bit I need to break up with my doctor. I felt awesome and amazing while living on my body’s natural time, and now I feel I have enough evidence to bring to my doctor, much better evidence than “I’m exhausted, this isn’t working”. Now that I think about it, acceptance of my circadian rhythm disorder could be similar to my journey of size acceptance and HAES: stop fighting against my body, and do things that make me feel good instead of trying to fit into a tiny “normal” box.

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