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Want to Slim Down After Pregnancy? Get Some Sleep!
 Pregnancy Feature Story

Want to Slim Down After Pregnancy? Get Some Sleep!
Without adequate shut-eye, weight loss may remain elusive

Want to Slim Down After Pregnancy? Get Some Sleep!(HealthDay News) -- After giving birth, two things are nearly certain: New moms won't get enough sleep, and they'll be in a hurry to drop excess pounds from pregnancy.

But in news that's sure to frustrate new mothers, researchers suggest that the two are linked. Regularly getting enough sleep, they say, may be key to dropping pounds post-pregnancy.

"Sleep deprivation can cause changes in the levels of hormones involved in appetite regulation," Dr. Sirimon Reutrakul, a consultant in endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, told HealthDay.

Erica Gunderson, one of the researchers on a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, said that her team found that women who were getting six or more hours of sleep a night when the baby was 6 months old were more likely to have lost their pregnancy weight.

Short sleep duration, she said, "stood out as an independent risk factor" for weight retention. Gunderson is a research scientist and epidemiologist at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif.

For many women, post-partum weight can be a long-term problem. One Finnish study found that, six to 18 months after giving birth, as many as one in five women retains at least 11 pounds gained during their pregnancy. Excess pregnancy weight, the researchers found, may eventually become a permanent weight gain.

Factors that can influence whether a woman loses pregnancy weight include her diet, physical activity and sleep. A good night's sleep, however, is often elusive, particularly soon after birth.

Another factor that may help women lose post-pregnancy weight is breast-feeding. Women who breast-feed use an extra 500 calories or so a day, on average, according to the American Pregnancy Association.

Gunderson and her colleagues followed 940 women for a year after the birth of their children. From that group, they found that 124 women retained 11 or more pounds that had been gained during pregnancy.

Women who got less than six hours of sleep each night had three times the risk for retaining the weight than did their more rested counterparts. The researchers said the finding held true even after they adjusted for such factors as pre-pregnancy obesity.

And, they concluded that adequate sleep -- six or more hours a night -- is as important to losing post-pregnancy pounds as eating right and exercising.

Not every expert agrees that sleep has that significant an effect, however. Dr. Truls Ostbye, a professor and vice chairman of research in the community and family medicine department at Duke University Medical Center, told HealthDay that preliminary data from a study he's working on show that "women who sleep less at six weeks lose less weight from six weeks to 12 months." But, he noted that when they adjusted the data to account for the fact that heavier women lose less weight and sleep less, "the effect of sleep on weight loss nearly goes away."

According to Ostbye, "The relationship between obesity and sleep is there, but it is as likely that less sleep is a result of obesity as the other way around."

But Reutrakul pointed out that no matter the true size of the effect on post-partum weight loss, getting a good night's sleep whenever you can is always a good idea.

On the Web

To learn more about the link between weight and sleep, visit the National Sleep Foundation.

SOURCES: Erica P. Gunderson, Ph.D., research scientist and epidemiologist, Kaiser Permanente, Oakland, Calif.; Sirimon Reutrakul, M.D., consultant in endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago; Truls Ostbye, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., professor and vice chairman, research, Department of Community and Family Medicine, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C.; Nutrition Journal; American Journal of Preventive Medicine; American Journal of Epidemiology; American Pregnancy Association (

Author: Serena Gordon

Publication Date: July 31, 2010

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