It’s Better Sleep Month, and there’s one more health benefit we can add to the list of getting a good night’s sleep.
According to new research*, getting inadequate or poor quality sleep may be linked to an increased risk of obesity. Specifically, there is an association between getting fewer than six hours sleep and increased body mass index (BMI) or obesity.
Previous research had found that people who averaged six hours of sleep per night were 27 percent more likely to be overweight than those who slept seven to nine hours, and those averaging five hours of sleep per night were 73 percent more likely to be overweight.
The latest study suggests that not getting enough sleep appears to impact the signals from the brain that regulate appetite. These are controlled in large part by two hormones: ghrelin, which increases appetite, and leptin, which indicates when the body is full. When these aren’t in balance, it can lead to increased food intake. (In addition, lack of sleep may leave you too tired to exercise – another factor in weight management.)
The evidence suggests the association between inadequate sleep and higher BMI is stronger in children and adolescents. It also shows a greater association in lower socioeconomic groups.
In addition, the findings show that sleeping poorly can increase a person's risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease.
*Kristen L. Knutson. Does inadequate sleep play a role in vulnerability to obesity? American Journal of Human Biology, 2012; 24 (3): 361 DOI: 10.1002/ajhb.22219