Adults in the UK who have poor sleep patterns are more likely to be overweight and obese and have poorer metabolic health, according to a new study conducted at the University of Leeds.
The findings showed that people who were sleeping an average of six hours a night had a waist measurement that was 1.2 inches (3 cm) greater than individuals who were getting nine hours of sleep a night. And shorter sleepers were heavier too.
The results strengthen the evidence that insufficient sleep could contribute to the development of metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes.
About the study
The study 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. The researchers looked at the associations between how long people were sleeping and these key biological parameters.
Less sleep tied to lower “good” cholesterol levels
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.
Previous research has shown that sleep deprivation can cause higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. Higher and prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream has been associated with a number of negative health effects including impaired blood sugar control, high blood pressure, lowered immunity and abdominal obesity.
Aim for 7 to 9 hours each night
How much sleep people need varies between individuals, but the current recommendation is seven to nine hours for adults; children and teenagers need 9 to 10 hours a night.
Source: University of Leeds
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