If you start skimping on sleep, don’t be surprised if your belly starts to expand. Adults who sleep less than six hours per night were found to have a waist measurement that was three centimeters (more than one inch) greater than adults who snooze nine hours per night, according to a new study out of the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom and published in the journal, PLOS One. The study, which also found that those who sleep less tend to weigh more, breaks new ground in that it did not find a link between shortened sleep and poor dietary choices (unlike other studies have in the past), but rather between shortened sleep and metabolic disorders such as diabetes. (But, sticking to this diet can help prevent—or reverse—diabetes risk factors.)
Diabetes is a significant problem in the U.S., affecting more than 9.4 percent of the population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Although not all people with obesity develop the disease, obesity accounts for much of Type 2 diabetes risk,” according to the researchers. (This is what you should know about Type 2 diabetes.) Given that large-scale studies have consistently linked worldwide sleep deprivation to diabetes, the researchers honed in on sleep patterns as a potential connection between sleep, weight, and metabolic disorders such as diabetes.
The researchers actually investigated the connection between sleep and a number of key indicators of overall metabolic health: weight, waist circumference, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, blood sugar, and thyroid function. They did this by analyzing data on 1,615 adults who participated in the UK’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey Rolling Programme. The data included how long the people slept and what they ate, their weight and waist measurement, and the results of blood tests.
The researchers, led by Laura Hardie, PhD, Reader in Molecular Epidemiology at the University of Leeds, found that the less people slept, the more they weighed, the bigger their bellies, and the more their blood tests showed signs of metabolic disease (such as lower measures of “good cholesterol” (HDL) and problematic blood sugar readings). “Together, our findings show that short-sleeping adults are more likely to have obesity, a disease with many comorbidities,” the researchers told Science Daily. Since obesity contributes to the development of many diseases, most notably Type 2 Diabetes, the researchers were able to conclude that insufficient sleep contributes not only to obesity but to the development of metabolic diseases such as diabetes.
How much sleep we need differs between people, but the current consensus is that seven to nine hours is best for most adults,” Dr. Hardie said in a press release issued by the University of Leeds.
Don’t miss the little changes that can help you sleep better tonight!