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Insufficient sleep may ‘add centimeters’ to nurse waistlines

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Adults in the UK who have poor sleep patterns are more likely to be overweight and obese and have poorer metabolic health, according to researchers.

The findings showed that people who were sleeping an average of six hours a night had a waist measurement that was 3cm greater than individuals who were getting nine hours of sleep a night.

“Our findings highlight the importance of getting enough sleep”

Laura Hardie

Shorter sleepers were heavier, according to the researchers from the University of Leeds whose findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE.

The results add to a growing body of evidence that insufficient sleep could contribute to the development of metabolic diseases, such as diabetes, they said.

The study looked at the links between sleep duration, diet and weight, and also other indicators of overall metabolic health such as blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose, and thyroid function.

The study involved 1,615 adults who kept records on how long they slept and their food intake. They also had blood samples taken and their weight, waist circumference, and blood pressure recorded.

After adjustment for age, ethnicity, sex, smoking, and socioeconomic status, sleep duration was negatively associated with body mass index (-0.46 kg/m2 per hour) and waist circumference (-0.9 cm per hour).

”Understanding why people gain weight has crucial implications for public health”

Greg Potter

Shorter sleep was also linked to reduced levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good”, cholesterol in the participants’ blood. Sleep duration was positively associated with HDL at 0.03mmol/L per hour.

Meanwhile, sleep duration “tended” to be positively associated with free thyroxine levels and negatively associated with HbA1c and C-reactive protein, the study found.

However, to the surprise of the researchers, the study did not find any relationship between shortened sleep and a less healthy diet.

“Together, our findings show that short-sleeping UK adults are more likely to have obesity, a disease with many comorbidities,” said the researchers.

Dr Laura Hardie, the study’s senior investigator, said: “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,” she noted.

Lead study author Greg Potter added: “The number of people with obesity worldwide has more than doubled since 1980. Obesity contributes to the development of many diseases, most notably type 2 diabetes. Understanding why people gain weight has crucial implications for public health.”

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