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Losing just 30 minutes of sleep a night promotes weight gain

8/24 10:00:34
© Andres Rodriguez - Fotolia

Losing sleep and gaining weight

Are you skimping on sleep and piling on the kilos?

There is a connection! In fact, even losing as little as 30 minutes of sleep per day on weekdays can have long-term consequences for your body weight and metabolism. This is according to a new study presented at the annual meeting of the Endocrine Society in San Diego.

"While previous studies have shown that short sleep duration is associated with obesity and diabetes, we found that as little as 30 minutes a day sleep debt can have significant effects on obesity and insulin resistance at follow up," said lead study author Professor Shahrad Taheri, MBBS, PhD, professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, in Doha. "This reinforces earlier observations that sleep loss is additive and can have metabolic consequences."

Paying back sleep debt

Because of social and work commitments, people often accumulate sleep debt during weekdays and make up for lost sleep over the weekend. But weekday sleep debt may lead to long-term metabolic disruption, which may promote the onset of, or exacerbate the progression of, type 2 diabetes mellitus.

"Sleep loss is widespread in modern society, but only in the last decade have we realised its metabolic consequences," Taheri said. "Our findings suggest that avoiding sleep debt could have positive benefits for waistlines and metabolism and that incorporating sleep into lifestyle interventions for weight loss and diabetes might improve their success."

Over 500 type 2 diabetics studied

Professor Taheri and his colleagues recruited 522 patients with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes mellitus in the Early Activity in Diabetes trial and randomised them into one of three groups: usual care, physical activity intervention, or diet and physical activity intervention.

Participants completed seven-day sleep diaries and calculated their weekday sleep debt.  Researchers recorded their height, weight, waist circumference and analysed their fasting blood samples for insulin sensitivity.

Compared with participants who had no weekday sleep debt, those who had weekday sleep debt were 72 percent more likely to be obese, and by the six-month mark, weekday sleep debt was significantly associated with obesity and insulin resistance.

At 12 months, for every 30 minutes of weekday sleep debt at baseline, the risk of obesity and insulin resistance was significantly increased by 17 and 39 percent, respectively.

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