People who skimp on sleep may have more to worry about than being overtired: When compared with people who were well rested, those who got fewer hours of shut-eye had wider waistlines—despite comparable diets, according to a new study published in PLOS One.
For the study, researchers from the Leeds Institute of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Medicine and the School of Food Science and Nutrition surveyed 1,615 participants ages 19 to 65 in the United Kingdom.
The researchers found that the participants who slept, on average, only six hours per night had waists that measured around 1.2 inches larger the participants who slept an average of nine hours per night. Further, participants who slept less tended to weigh more. According to the study, the longer sleepers and the shorter sleepers did not have "substantially different dietary habits."
In a surprising finding, survey participants who averaged 12 hours of sleep each night had the lowest waist circumference and BMI. That contradicts other studies that have suggested that sleeping more than nine hours per night can contribute to weight gain, Ariana Eunjung Cha reports for the Washington Post's "To Your Health."
The study also found that people who slept less tended to have lower levels of HDL, or "good," cholesterol, a condition that could potentially lead to obesity or Type 2 diabetes.
Why sleep affects weight
So why do sleepless nights lead to larger waists? The working theory involves two hormones that tell the body when to eat and when to stop eating, Eunjung Cha writes. When you don't get enough sleep, the hormones fall out of balance, leading you to eat more.
Further, research indicates insufficient sleep can slow your metabolism, contributing to weight gain. And the researchers note that other studies have shown a correlation between low sleep duration and "reduced dietary quality."
"Collectively, these findings suggest that ... longer sleepers have favorable metabolic profiles in comparison to shorter sleepers but not substantially different dietary habits," the researchers wrote, adding, "Our findings support the accumulating evidence showing an important contribution of short sleep to metabolic diseases such as obesity" (Eunjung Cha, "To Your Health," Washington Post, 7/31; Potter, PLOS One, 7/27).
Next: Get the key insights on medical weight loss programs
As obesity and its related comorbidities remain top concerns nationwide, many hospitals are considering how to enhance their services to this patient group. Understanding that weight loss demands a comprehensive approach to care, many hospitals have launched non-surgical weight loss programs to support those patients who are not candidates for surgery.
This brief profiles three non-surgical weight loss programs at community and teaching hospitals to identify the variety of services available.