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With summer beginning to disappear – we’re all starting to think about the weight we’re likely to put on during the winter months. Office parties, roast dinners and Christmas all add up when it comes to the scales, but did you know that your sleep habits are just as important when it comes to our waistlines?

Overweight MaleA new study by the University of Leeds has found that people who sleep for six or less hours a night would have an inch greater waist measurement than people who would sleep for nine hours a night. These findings are being seen as further conformation to the fact that sleeping disorders and insufficient sleep can lead to obesity and from there conditions like diabetes and heart disease.

The study itself had 1,615 adult participants, who would each report both their sleeping and eating habits. Their overall metabolic rate was similarly measured. This would look at blood sugar, blood pressure, blood cholesterol and thyroid function. The participants also had their weight and waist measured.

The results showed that the average waist circumference measured on those with poor sleep (less than 6 hours) had, on average, a 1.1inch (3cm) increase on their waist measurements compared to people who slept for 9 hours or more.

Yet this wasn’t the only flag that was raised for these sleeper’s health. People who slept less than 6 hours also had a link to reduced levels of the good cholesterol in our bodies. This good cholesterol is needed to remove fat from our bodies, without this we are more prone to suffer from conditions like heart disease.

A researcher on the study, Dr Greg Potter, speaking about the results said: “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."

Yet the biggest finding from the result was that poor sleep did not equal a poor diet. After-all, it may just have been a coincidence that people who sleep less hours at night were also prone to a bad diet, such as drinking too much full-sugar drinks that are full of additives and caffeine preventing a good night’s sleep. In fact, it has been thought in the past that tiredness can lead to poor diet choices, as when we’re tired the part of the brain that deals with inhibitions is less active, meaning we’re more likely to cave in and eat bad foods.

However, this was not the case in this study, as the participants with less sleep didn’t have a particularly bad diet compared to the nine-hour sleepers. This suggests that sleep is the driving factor in the increased waistline.

The study’s senior investigator, Dr Laura Hardie, 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."

The study is just one in many that suggests that sleep is just as important for our health as our diets or exercise. So, if you’re trying for a healthier lifestyle make sure you evaluate your sleeping routine.

Image courtesy of photouta at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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