Debullshitifying the "sleep science" industry: first up, sleeplessness and obesity

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Chronic lack of sleep = obesity skips a step. Lack of sleep increases cravings for high-carb foods, and that’s what makes a person gain weight.

I found this after one Google:

Actually, isn’t “I asked the NHS spokespeople and they didn’t have anything at hand” kind of anecdotal? It doesn’t prove the data isn’t out there.


Well, burden of proof, and all that.


To be fair, the article and study you link to involved just 12 healthy male volunteers over a very short time frame. It also didn’t measure the changes in obesity, thus no link between sleep deprivation and obesity was established. There is also research out there debating whether high-carb foods (vs. total calories consumed) contributes to weight gain.

I don’t think the hypothesis that lack of sleep can contribute to obesity is far fetched, but there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of evidence to back it up. There is also the hypothesis that people who are obese may not sleep very well, so a chicken and egg problem?[quote=“gadgetgirl02, post:2, topic:72342”]
isn’t “I asked the NHS spokespeople and they didn’t have anything at hand” kind of anecdotal?

The problem is that, without evidence, governments can say whatever the hell they want about health relationships.


That’s fair. It’s also a general problem with sleep deprivation studies – sleep deprivation is dangerous enough that asking a lot of people to do it for a long time would be tantamount to ruining their health. There’s a reason sleep deprivation is an effective torture tool.


the data did not support the claim.

You sciency types always get obsessed with the picky little details, such as evidence.


Obesity definitely contributes to a lack of sleep, so do many of the things contributing to obesity.

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Repeat after me: Correlation does not equal causation. :slight_smile:


We have a high level of certainty that obesity exacerbates sleep apnea and there is some evidence that it can even cause sleep apnea. So weight does play a role in quality of sleep. And if you sleep badly at night you won’t feel good during the day. People who don’t feel good and are tired all the time tend to conserve energy and be less active if they can help it, therefore increasing their chances of gaining weight, which further impacts their sleep quality.


That’s getting to be right up there with “late stage capitalism”.


I was up half the night with a kid who probably has pneumonia; I’m too tired to read this.

I’m going for more coffee and a bag of Doritos.


I’m not sure about Mr Doctorow’s motivation in writing this piece.

OK fair dues to Chris for getting the NHS to amend the website, but the title and tone of this piece suggests the sleep-obesity link is some kind of anti-vaxxer-like conspiracy plot.

It’s pretty damn clear to anyone with some cursory knowledge, that sleep disturbance has very clear links not just to obesity, but also diabetes, heart disease and a whole host of chronic conditions. In fact the Harvard link in the article itself gives quite an overwhelming argumet for scientific consensus.

(Another good summary of gut-circadian biology is here at The Scientist: )

The point is, it’s not very bright or helpful to attempt to ‘debunk’ something as complex and multifaceted as the sleep-obesity connection.

First off, chronobiology (the study of circadian biology) is still in it’s infancy. We just don’t know enough yet about the metabolic effects of sleep deprivation.

Secondly, accurate sleep studies, for large populations don’t, and never will exist. Sleep quality can only be accurately measured with polysomnography, which costs $1000s of dollars per night and involves attaching dozens of wires to your body and brain.

Third , there is no financial, economic, or political incentive to try and prove a ‘scientific’ link between sleep and obesity. Both global agro-business, and global capitalism have a stake in trying to uphold the corporate mindset that devalues sleep, and promotes junk food.

So you can debunk away, but it’s a bit fruitless - like trying to prove God doesn’t exist. We’ll never fully know the answers.

Sure yes, correlation is not cause… yadda yadda… but there’s no point throwing the baby out with the bathwater over some minutiae of skeptical pedantry.

That’s it. Rant over (Disclaimer I’ve produced a graphic called the Sleep Obesity Connection. - feel free to hit me up with any skeptical claims)


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