Diabetes Self-Management Blog

A small study from the University of Chicago suggests that diet and exercise may not be the only factors in weight loss: Sleep, or rather, lack of sleep, appears to play an important role in hunger and fat loss.

Researchers randomly assigned 10 overweight, nonsmoking adults with an average age of 41 to either 14 days of calorie restriction and 8 1/2 hours of sleep a night or to 14 days of calorie restriction and 5 1/2 hours of sleep a night. (All participants were assigned to the alternate group in the second phase of the study.) During their waking hours, participants were sedentary and either did office work or engaged in leisure activities.

The results showed that the shortened sleep time reduced the amount of weight lost as fat by 55%: People sleeping 8 1/2 hours lost 1.4 kilograms (roughly 3.1 pounds), while those sleeping 5 1/2 hours lost only 0.6 kilograms (approximately 1.3 pounds). Additionally, the short sleep time increased the amount of fat-free body mass that was lost. The shortened sleep duration also resulted in an increase in hunger, lower resting metabolic rate, and heightened concentrations of ghrelin (an appetite-stimulating hormone) in the blood.

According to senior study author Plamen Penev, MD, PhD, “Among other hormonal effects, we found that sleep restriction caused an increase in ghrelin levels in the blood. Ghrelin is a hormone that has been shown to reduce energy expenditure, stimulate hunger and food intake, promote retention of fat, and increase glucose production in the body. This could explain why sleep-deprived participants also reported feeling hungrier during the study.”

In an accompanying editorial, Shahrad Taheri, MBBS, PhD, and Emmanuel Mignot, MD, PhD, noted that the study was small and included only people without health conditions, and therefore might not apply to people who do have health conditions. However, they agreed that getting adequate sleep is potentially an important factor in weight loss and in the future could be suggested along with diet and exercise as a way to maintain a healthy weight.

Aside from its effects on hunger, inadequate sleep is known to be associated with diabetes in a number of ways. Not getting enough sleep can decrease glucose tolerance and stimulate production of the stress hormone cortisol. Additionally, people who have sleep apnea are more than twice as likely as those who don’t to have diabetes, and 50% of men with Type 2 diabetes have sleep apnea. A recent study has also found that sleeping fewer than six hours a night may triple a person’s risk of developing incident-impaired fasting glucose (IFG), a condition that leads to Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

To learn more about the research, read the article “Recommended Lifestyle Changes Should Include Enough Sleep, Say Researchers” or see the study’s abstract in the Annals of Internal Medicine. And for tips on getting a good night’s sleep, check out this article by nurse David Spero.


  1. This is a good finding, which has been seen before. Inadequate sleep is bad for glucose and fat metabolism. It’s a source of stress.

    Check out my blog later this week for some tips on getting more sleep.

    Posted by David Spero RN |

Post a Comment

Note: All comments are moderated and there may be a delay in the publication of your comment. Please be on-topic and appropriate. Do not disclose personal information. Be respectful of other posters. Only post information that is correct and true to your knowledge. When referencing information that is not based on personal experience, please provide links to your sources. All commenters are considered to be nonmedical professionals unless explicitly stated otherwise. Promotion of your own or someone else's business or competing site is not allowed: Sharing links to sites that are relevant to the topic at hand is permitted, but advertising is not. Once submitted, comments cannot be modified or deleted by their authors. Comments that don't follow the guidelines above may be deleted without warning. Such actions are at the sole discretion of DiabetesSelfManagement.com. Comments are moderated Monday through Friday by the editors of DiabetesSelfManagement.com. The moderators are employees of Madavor Media, LLC., and do not report any conflicts of interest. A privacy policy setting forth our policies regarding the collection, use, and disclosure of certain information relating to you and your use of this Web site can be found here. For more information, please read our Terms and Conditions.

Weight Loss
Can Grapefruit Juice Prevent Weight Gain, Increase Insulin Sensitivity? (10/16/14)
Whittle That Middle: A Trimmer Waistline Improves Your Health (09/22/14)
Diabetes UnConference Scholarships Now Available (09/04/14)
Techie Tools to Help With Weight Loss (08/18/14)

Diabetes Research
Can Grapefruit Juice Prevent Weight Gain, Increase Insulin Sensitivity? (10/16/14)
Low-Carb Diet Improves Quality of Life in Type 2 Diabetes (10/07/14)
Long Hours at Low-Income Jobs Linked to Increased Diabetes Risk (10/02/14)
Statins May Reduce Risk of Nerve Damage, Other Diabetes Complications (09/18/14)

Diabetes News
Can Grapefruit Juice Prevent Weight Gain, Increase Insulin Sensitivity? (10/16/14)
Low-Carb Diet Improves Quality of Life in Type 2 Diabetes (10/07/14)
Long Hours at Low-Income Jobs Linked to Increased Diabetes Risk (10/02/14)
New Weekly Type 2 Diabetes Drug Approved (09/26/14)

Diane Fennell
Take Part in the Big Blue Test! (10/15/14)
Can Grapefruit Juice Prevent Weight Gain, Increase Insulin Sensitivity? (10/16/14)
Low-Carb Diet Improves Quality of Life in Type 2 Diabetes (10/07/14)
Long Hours at Low-Income Jobs Linked to Increased Diabetes Risk (10/02/14)



Disclaimer of Medical Advice: You understand that the blog posts and comments to such blog posts (whether posted by us, our agents or bloggers, or by users) do not constitute medical advice or recommendation of any kind, and you should not rely on any information contained in such posts or comments to replace consultations with your qualified health care professionals to meet your individual needs. The opinions and other information contained in the blog posts and comments do not reflect the opinions or positions of the Site Proprietor.

Blood Glucose Self-Monitoring — Part 3: Smart Monitoring

10 Keys to Long-Term Weight Loss

Take Your Best Shot: Stay Up to Date on Vaccines

Complete table of contents
Subscription questions