A recent article about sleep and obesity in The Huffington Post makes fascinating reading.
Among other notable points, it discusses the medical community's continuing ignorance of the link between sleep disorders and obesity.
The article, expertly written by Dr Stuart Quan, points out the clear 'lines of evidence' which point toward the correlation, but laments the fact that organisations such as The Institute of Medicine continue to overlook their own evidence. For instance, in its previous paper the IOM specifically cited evidence linking sleep deprivation with obesity.
So, let's look at the facts...
First, research by numerous bodies has found that time spent sleeping has declined over the past 30 years. This correleates almost perfectly with the rise in obesity.
Second, a number of general population studies demonstrate that obesity is more common among those who sleep fewer than six hours per night. Associated studies have also shown that short sleep durations also are predictive of future weight gain.
Third, basic research shows that short sleep durations increase levels of a hormone that stimulates appetite and simultaneously reduces the levels of a hormone that reduces appetite.
Fourth, night shift workers generally sleep less than day shift workers but on average weigh more.
As Dr Quan says, "With the 'weight' of the evidence implicating sleep deficiency as a risk factor for obesity and the indisputable fact that we should be spending one-third of our lives sleeping, can it be denied that sufficient sleep is the third pillar of health along with good nutrition and regular physical activity? Why the Institute of Medicine failed to come to this conclusion is unclear to me."
Dr Quan goes on to say, "The fight against obesity will be difficult to win unless all obstacles are addressed. A golden opportunity may be lost unless America recognizes that more sleep equals less weight."