Can not getting enough shut eye each night help make you fat? Some high powered researchers may have found the answer to that very question.

People often lose sleep over being fat, but does lack of sleep actually contribute to gaining weight or an inability to lose fat? One thing’s for sure; in today’s busy life more people are sleep deprived than ever. Between meetings, travel, shuttling the kids around to this event and that, and going the extra mile for your accounts so you can keep up your income in this tough economy, just about everyone could use an extra couple hours of sleep every night. Would those extra hours of sleep help you lose weight, and if you don’t get them will it make you fat?

Sleep – Belly Fat Study
According to recent research it can do just that. A recent study conducted at Wake Forest University by Kristen G. Hairston, M.D., M.P.H, concluded that lack of sleep can cause dangerous fat build up around your internal organs. The study, published in the March 2010 edition of the journal Sleep notes several interesting findings.

They concluded that it is worse for people under 40 to get less than 5 hours of sleep each night than it is for people above that age. In fact, the increase in visceral fat, also known as belly fat, observed by the research team was not only prevalent in people under 40 years old that got less than 5 hours of sleep each night, it was also observed, to a lesser degree, in people that got over 8 hours of sleep per night. What about those of you over 40? Sleep however much you want. The team recorded no correlation between sleep duration and belly fat in those over 40 years of age!

The most common groups to be affected by the increases in belly fat associated with sleep were Hispanic men and African-American women. Those groups are also more likely to be affected by metabolic conditions such as obesity, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. When asked why certain groups or people under 40 appeared to be at rtsik for sleep deprivation related fat gain, Dr. Hairston  gave the oldest scientific answer in the book “ We don’t really know yet …”

So, when you’re young, tend to stay out late, and get less sleep, or if you have young  kids (likewise) lack of sleep will make you gain belly fat, but older individuals don’t really have to worry about it. Sometimes life just isn’t fair.

More Studies Link Sleep Deprivation to Fatness
But wait, there’s more… In a 2004 study, researcher Eve Van Cauter from the University of Chicago discovered that not only are they linked, but in her opinion sleep might be vital to weight control. Her study indicated that one key to the overeating rage in America today is the fact that Americans do not get enough quality sleep. The condition causes a rise in hormones that increase appetite, while simultaneously decreasing hormone levels that make you feel full. These two hormones are ghrelin and leptin. I did a post on why leptin can make you fat last year. Sounds like a recipe for overeating to me.

What did the University of Chicago study find?

– Leptin levels were 18% lower and ghrelin levels were 28% higher after  participants slept 4 hours vs. 10 hours.

– Study participants who had the largest hormonal changes indicated they felt the most hungry and craved simple carbohydrate-rich foods. Those foods are known to make you gain extra fat.

Decreasing leptin is the goal of not only enough sleep, but also the diets that have you eat all knids of junk food one day a week. That has been shown to decrease leptin levels, See my post on why leptin can make you fat for more on how to eat junk food every Sunday and lose weight.

It doesn’t stop there. A few years ago, a team at Stanford University, a prestigious institution of higher learning if there ever was one, also concluded that sleep is very important to maintaining healthy weight. That study was conducted by Dr. Emmanuel Mingot who is well known for his sleep research, and previously conducted breakthrough research on narcolepsy.

More Reasons No Sleep Can Make You The Dreaded Skinny – Fat

The effects of sleep on growth hormone production and muscle recovery are also well documented. You produce most of your HGH when you are in deep sleep, and your muscles only recover from hard training sessions and grow when you are sleeping. Both of these things have a large impact on keeping lean and dropping excess fat.

It appears that sleep, something all too many of us don’t get enough of, is essential to losing weight and dropping belly fat levels. So, set your alarm a half hour later and go to bed an hour earlier.