According to a new study, adults who have poor sleep patterns are more likely to be overweight and obese and have poorer metabolic health.
The findings of the research from the University of Leeds in the UK showed that people who were sleeping on average around six hours a night had a waist measurement that was greater than an inch more than individuals who were getting nine hours of sleep a night.
The results strengthen the evidence that insufficient sleep could contribute to the development of metabolic diseases such as diabetes.
The study led by Dr Laura Hardie not only looked at the links between sleep duration, diet and weight, but also other indicators of overall metabolic health such as blood pressure, blood cholesterol, blood sugar, and thyroid function.
The study involved 1,615 adults who reported how long they slept and kept records of food intake. Participants had blood samples taken and their weight, waist circumference, and blood pressure recorded.
Shorter sleep was also linked to reduced levels of HDL cholesterol in the participants’ blood–another factor that can cause health problems. HDL cholesterol is ‘good’ cholesterol that helps remove ‘bad’ fat from the circulation. In doing so, high HDL cholesterol levels protect against conditions such as heart disease.
Interestingly, the study did not find any relationship between shortened sleep and a less healthy diet – a fact that surprised the researchers. Other studies have suggested that shortened sleep can lead to poor dietary choices.
The research was a snapshot of the associations between sleep duration and measurements of metabolic health. It was not designed to assess the impact of chronic poor sleep over time, and whether that leads to disease.
“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 Dr. Hardie. “How much sleep we need differs between people, but the current consensus is that seven to nine hours is best for most adults.”