How Being a Slave to Your Alarm Could Be Sabotaging Your Waistline

A new study points to a link between sleep duration and weight, regardless of diet.

We’ve all been beat over the head with the news headlines and Arianna Huffingtons of the world screaming the same thing at us: “SLEEP IS SUPER IMPORTANT AND YOU’RE NOT GETTING ENOUGH OF IT.” The facts are this: sleep impacts our work performance; it screws with our relationships (hello, cranky monster in need of nap); and not getting enough sleep can make you act like a drunk person in the daytime. No, really, it’s science.

But all that said, when you’re deep into an internet investigation at 2 a.m., digging into how Kim Kardashian’s assistant managed to create a career that involves yachts, thinking up Kimoji-based merch and taking Kim’s “selfies,” none of this information matters. You will continue with your descent into the very deep Google hole and then regret it all when your alarm goes off at 6 a.m., arming you with just four hours of sleep to take on the day. (Curiosity killed the cat, right?)

But we’re here to bang you over the head with some more news that might make you close your laptop at a decent hour. As Health reports, a new study published in PLOS ONE found that getting less sleep was linked to higher waist circumference, but they didn’t find a link between sleep and diet quality. Wait, huh?

The study surveyed over 1,600 adults in the United Kingdom on their sleep patterns and their diets. Participants also gave blood samples and had weight, waist circumference, blood pressure, cholesterol, and thyroid function measured, with the goal of finding out how the participants’ sleep habits affected these aspects of their health.

In the end, shorter sleep was linked with lower levels of good cholesterol, and with higher waist circumference and BMI. Per Health:

For example, people who scored about 5.9 hours of sleep a night had an average waist circumference of 37.4 inches and an average BMI of 28.6, while those who averaged 8.4 hours a night had an average waist circumference of 35.8 inches and an average BMI of 27.1.

After the results were adjusted for age, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and smoking status, each additional hour of sleep per night was associated with a 0.3-inch reduction in waist circumference and a nearly half a point decrease in BMI.

Whoa, right? But get this: While the researchers did find a link between sleep duration and weight, they didn’t find a link between sleep duration and diet quality, contrary to previous research suggesting that less sleep can lead folks to reach for less waist-friendly foods. While the researchers note that this might just be a flaw of their study not including enough participants to detect a link, they also told Health that it could point to a link between sleep and metabolism, saying in an email, “A few (not all) previous experiments have found that if you reduce how long people sleep, some burn slightly fewer calories at rest.”

So … how do you know if you’re getting enough sleep? Well, the researchers say that you should aim for the seven to nine-hour range, where they found folks are less likely to be overweight. And a good indicator of if you’re getting enough sleep is your alarm. If you always have to drag yourself out of bed when your alarm goes off in the morning, instead of simply waking naturally, they say that could indicate a need for an earlier bedtime.

So, long story short, if nothing else, new research shows that less sleep is linked with a higher number on the scale. So think about that the next time you decide to start a Grey’s Anatomy marathon at 1 a.m.

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