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Diet and exercise are only part of the story with weight loss.  Your body’s metabolism is also affected by stress, hormones and sleep.  Research shows that getting more sleep at night can minimize genetic influences on weight gain.  

According to Dr. Nathaniel Watson, the co-director of the University of Washington Sleep Disorders Center, more sleep equals less weight gain as it relates to genetic factors.

“The longer you sleep, the less important genetics become in determining what you weigh,” he said.  “Does this mean you can sleep yourself thin?” Watson asked. “Probably not. But you can sleep yourself to a point where environmental factors, like diet and activity, are more important in determining your body weight than genetics.”

In a study published online in the journal of Sleep, researchers evaluated more than 1,000 pairs of maternal and fraternal twins in the U.S.  The twins were assessed for weight, height and sleep patterns.  According to the findings, if a person received less than seven hours of sleep per night, there was a greater correlation with that person having a higher body mass index, a measurement of weight relative to height, and greater genetic influences on BMI.

“Shorter sleep creates a permissive environment for the expression of obesity-related genes,” Watson said. “Let’s say you have identical twins, with the same BMI-related genes. One twin is a short sleeper and the other is a normal sleeper. The short-sleeping twin is going to be turning on the genes related to BMI — it’s a permissive environment. The longer-sleeping twin is not creating that permissive environment.”

On the flip side, getting more than nine hours of sleep seemed to suppress genetic influences on participants’ weight.

Other studies have measured the impact that lack of sleep can have on weight, focusing primarily on how late night snacking can increase weight. Others have focused on the role of hormones such as leptin, thought to suppress appetite, and ghrelin, believed to trigger hunger, could affect weight gain.  Those hormones are largely regulated by sleep patterns.

Source: Sleep Can Turn Off Obesity Genes, Study Says.

Dr. Julieanne Neal is a naturopathic doctor at Boulder Natural Health.  She specializes in weight loss management, insomnia, adrenal fatigue, and other hormonal imbalances.  

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