LEEDS, England — A night of poor sleep can make you bleary-eyed the next day, but when it happens regularly, it may also contribute to making you fatter. A new study finds people who lack sufficient shut-eye — particularly those who sleep less than seven hours a night — are at a greater risk of obesity, along with a host of other maladies linked to heart health.
Researchers at the University of Leeds studied 1,615 adults, all of whom reported their sleep and eating patterns. Participants also had their weight, waist circumference, and blood pressure levels recorded, as the researchers looked at how these variables were affected by a night’s rest.
Overall, the health outcomes associated with a poor quantity or quality of sleep were telling.
For example, individuals who slept an average of six hours a night had waist measurements three centimeters greater than those who got slept nine hours a night.
“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. How much sleep we need differs between people, but the current consensus is that seven to nine hours is best for most adults,” says lead researcher Dr. Laura Hardie in a news release.
Worse sleep patterns were also linked to a lower incidence of HDL, or good cholesterol, which can remove bad fat from one’s circulation.
Interestingly, the researchers found no link between shortened shut-eye and a poor diet, which came as a surprise.
While this study’s findings provide insight into the broad effects of sleep on metabolic health, it should not be mistaken for a longitudinal study.
Still, it demonstrates the overall benefits of rest, with the researchers adding that seven-to-nine hours a night is the sweet spot for most adults.
“The number of people with obesity worldwide has more than doubled since 1980,” emphasizes researcher Greg Potter. “Obesity contributes to the development of many diseases, most notably type 2 diabetes. Understanding why people gain weight has crucial implications for public health.”
The study’s findings were published Thursday in the journal PLOS One.