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New review links obesity to lack of sleep

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Lack of sleep has been linked to obesity in a new paper that reviews the evidence from a raft of sleep restriction studies.

The impact of sleeplessness on appetite regulation, its impairment of glucose metabolism and how it can raise blood pressure are all explored in the paper, which has been published in a special issue of the The American Journal of Human Biology.

“Obesity develops when energy intake is greater than expenditure. Diet and physical activity play an important part in this, but an additional factor may be inadequate sleep,” said Dr Kristen Knutson of the University of Chicago.

Dr Knutson reviewed findings from experimental and observational studies of sleep and discovered that signals from the brain that control the regulation of appetite are affected by experimental sleep restriction.

Cross-sectional associations were noted between getting fewer than six hours sleep and increased body mass index or obesity, while secretion of the hormones ghrelin and leptin - which respectively increase appetite and tell the body when its hunger needs have been met - was found to be influenced by lack of sleep.

This link between poor sleep and increased body mass index appears to be most pronounced among children and adolescents, according to the evidence.

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