An astute commenter pointed out that I misread the numbers in the paper on sleep and fat loss. I wrote that out of the total 3.0 kg lost, the high-sleep group lost 2.4 kg as fat, and the low-sleep group lost 1.4 kg of fat out of 2.9 kg total.
In fact, the high-sleep group lost 1.4 out of 2.9 kg as fat, and the low-sleep group lost 0.6 out of 3.0 kg as fat. So I got the numbers all mixed up. Sorry for the mistake. The main point of the post still stands though: sleep deprivation negatively influences body composition.
The correct numbers are even more interesting than the ones I made up. Even in the high-sleep group, nearly half the body weight lost by simple calorie restriction was lean mass. That doesn't make calorie restriction look very good!
In the sleep-deprived group, 80% of the weight lost by calorie restriction came out of lean mass. Ouch!
That illustrates one of the reasons why I'm skeptical of simple calorie restriction as a means of fat loss. When the body "wants" to be fat, it will sacrifice lean mass to preserve fat tissue. For example, the genetically obese Zucker rat cannot be starved thin. If you try to put it on a severe calorie-restricted diet, it will literally die fat because it will cannibalize its own lean mass (muscle, heart, brain, etc.) to spare the fat. That's an extreme example, but it illustrates the point.
The key is not only to balance energy intake with expenditure (which the brain does automatically when it's working correctly), but to allocate energy appropriately to lean and fat mass.