Sleep Disorders

Updated 11 August 2017

Poor sleep can make you fat

Adults who reported sleeping less than their peers were more likely to be overweight or obese, a new study found.

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Do you know that feeling of not being able to fall asleep? You toss and turn and worry about money, work and family issues. Now there’s something else to fret over…

A new study contends that poor sleep may also increase the risk of being overweight and obese.

Sleeplessness is a big problem for South African adults, with about 30 to 40% of all adults suffering from insomnia.

A Health24 article indicates that sleep is very important for your body to function optimally. A decent amount of sleep can also contribute to a healthier weight, one of the reasons being that a lack of sleep might make you crave junk food.

Seven to nine hours best

"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," said the study's senior investigator, Laura Hardie, of the University of Leeds in England.

"How much sleep we need differs between people, but the current consensus is that seven to nine hours is best for most adults," Hardie said in a university news release.

For the study, the research team looked at more than 1 600 adults in the United Kingdom. The participants reported how long they slept and kept records of what they ate. The participants also had blood samples taken and their weight, waist circumference and blood pressure measured.

The waists of those who slept an average of six hours a night were more than an inch larger than those who slept nine hours a night, the finding showed.

People who got less sleep also weighed more, and had reduced levels of HDL "good" cholesterol in their blood, which can cause health problems, according to the study authors.

Implications for public health

However, the researchers found no link between shortened sleep and a less healthy diet. The results were published online in the journal PLoS One.

According to study co-author Greg Potter, "The number of people with obesity worldwide has more than doubled since 1980. Obesity contributes to the development of many diseases, most notably type 2 diabetes. Understanding why people gain weight has crucial implications for public health."

The study can't show a direct cause-and-effect relationship between less sleep and weight gain. Still, the findings add to the growing body of evidence about the link between sleep and health, the researchers said.

How much sleep do we really need?

According to a Health24 article, sleeplessness is a big problem for South African adults, with about 30 to 40% of all adults suffering from insomnia. Many think that it's okay to skimp on sleep, as long as you can still function the next day. It's important to know what amount of sleep you need for improved health. On average, seven to eight hours of sleep is associated with the lowest risk of heart disease. Some people may need more, but too much sleep can also have a negative affect on your well-being.

Image supplied by iStock

 

Ask the Expert

Sleep disorders expert

Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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