By now, we all know that adequate sleep is crucial to maintaining both mental and physical health, and we know that most of us aren’t getting as much sleep as we should. Thanks to a myriad of scientific studies, we also know that chronic insufficient sleep has a direct link to long term health consequences, including obesity, itself a global epidemic that continues to increase year after year. Now, new research recently published in PLOS One shows even more clearly just how closely tied sleep and metabolic functions are, illustrating the correlation between fewer hours of sleep and both an increased BMI (body mass index) and waist circumference.
The research, performed by scientists out of the Institute of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Medicine at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, assessed 1,615 British individuals between the ages of 19 and 65 using food/sleep logs, as well as blood tests, waist measurements and blood pressure readings to evaluate participants’ overall metabolic health. Across the board, subjects who averaged around six hours a night, performed worse than those who slept more. In addition to supporting previous research that focused on poor sleep and increased weight, scientists found that these “short sleepers” not only had a waist circumference three centimeters larger than those who slept longer, but they also produced less HDL “good” cholesterol (increasing risk of heart disease) and had a higher BMI.
Surprisingly, the research didn’t find that fewer hours of sleep led to poor eating habits, a theory that has been posited in the past. Neither did the study focus on chronic sleep deprivation and its effects over time, but was an informational snapshot of the relationship between sleep habits and metabolic health.
According to lead researcher Dr Laura Hardie, "Because we found that adults who reported sleeping less than their peers were more likely to be overweight or obese, our findings highlight the importance of getting enough sleep.” Although she cautions that sleep is not necessarily a one-size-fits-all activity because "How much sleep we need differs between people,” she does advocate that “the current consensus is that seven to nine hours is best for most adults."
If previous research hasn’t motivated you to be more mindful of the sleep you’re getting, perhaps this new study can spur you on to adding zzzs to your sleep schedule instead of inches to your waist.
This article originally appeared in Sleep Retailer eNews on August 31, 2017
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