There’s an Interesting New Twist in the Link Between Sleep and Weight

by Thrive Global
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There’s an Interesting New Twist in the Link Between Sleep and Weight

This article was originally published on Thrive Global.

Being sleep-deprived can lead to a lot of negative consequences, from poor decision-making to a less than sunny disposition. In the past, research has shown the link between the amount of sleep we regularly get and our weight, but a recent study reported on by Health had an unexpected finding: While people who slept less weighed more and had bigger waistlines, researchers found no link between lack of sleep and poor diet choices.

The study surveyed 1,615 adults in the United Kingdom to look at the relationship between sleep, diet and metabolism. Participants’ height, weight, waist circumference and blood pressure were measured, and blood samples were taken. Finally, participants submitted three to four days of food journals so the researchers could get a sense of what they ate.

The researchers found that participants who slept less had lower HDL cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol that helps remove the “bad” cholesterol from our bloodstream and helps lower our risk of heart disease. Less sleep was also linked to increased BMI and waist circumference; participants who slept an average of an hour more per night had an average waist circumference 0.3 inches smaller than their less-rested counterparts.

What the study didn’t find was an association between sleep duration and dietary quality. According to Health, previous studies have suggested that loss of sleep tends to lead to sugar and fat cravings as well as reduced willpower. (Haven’t we all given in to a less-than-healthy breakfast option after a bad night’s sleep?)

The study’s co-author, Greg Potter, PhD, a researcher at the University of Leeds, noted to Health that the study did have some limitations, including a small number of participants, self-reported food intake and a fairly short duration of food intake reporting.

Despite these limitations though, the study’s findings have introduced a new theory worth paying attention to. Health points out that there may another player, outside of diet, in the sleep-weight relationship. In this case, the researchers hypothesize that shorter sleepers may actually have slower metabolisms. Potter told Health that “our findings suggest that people sleeping in this seven to nine hour range are less likely to be overweight than those sleeping less.”

This study is part of a growing literature connecting lack of sleep to weight gain, further highlighting the importance of getting adequate sleep every night.


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  • Debra Ryan

    I have been sleeping a lot of hours over the last few years but never feeling rested. I didn’t realize it was not quality sleep until I recently found our details in a recent sleep study test.

    In the last few months, I went for a sleep study. I was found to be waking up 35 times …per…HOUR so never getting REM sleep. I am starting my 4th month on cpap therapy. I am averaging 11 hours of sleep per night. Now in month #4, I do not have daytime sleepiness daily. I am exercising a lot more, making better healthy food choices and I am LOSING WEIGHT! I have learned that lack of quality sleep can make a person more likely to be a candidate for: stroke; heart disease; Type 2 diabetes; high blood pressure; AND OBESITY. I am adjusting well to the cpap machine since I realize I could die in my sleep due to obstructive apnea not being treated by cpap therapy, dental device or ENT surgery. Being a baby boomer with my tonsils and adnoids and such, I am not interested in unnecessary surgery. I have gotten beyond wearing the initial sleep mask claustrophobia and gotten comfortable into my nightly bedtime routine. Astronauts and scuba divers wear masks in order to do their tasks; if they can wears masks, why can’t I tolerate it?

    I hope others will check with their doctors and get a sleep study. Yes there is a correlation of the lack of quality sleep and weight gain. I am turning the tables….how about you?

    • Meghan Elizabeth McDermott

      🙂

    • Bill Cooper

      I have lost 88 lbs in the last 18+ weeks and it’s amazing how my snoring is almost non-existent now …… feel fortunate that simply moving back towards a healthy physique has saved me from having to use a CPAP

  • Meghan Elizabeth McDermott

    What’s the take-away from this article? Inadequate sleep leads to a slower metabolism?

  • Kristen Jay

    I have eaten junk throughout my life even when I used to get 8-9 hours of sleep.I’m post menopausal and have gotten less sleep over the past several years.I have found that I don’t have much trouble losing weight when I go on a diet so I don’t believe much in this whole being fat is linked to insomnia thing