Getting at least seven or eight hours of sleep a night can result in better health
A new study, published in the journal SLEEP, examined the effects of restricted sleep on weight gain, caloric intake, and timing of meals. This study, which used the largest and most diverse sample of healthy adults, found that people who regularly go to bed late will gain weight because they are more likely to consume late-night, high-calorie snacks.
The study used 225 healthy participants in a randomized, controlled trial to determine if weight gain could be observed during a short period of time when sleep was restricted. They divided the participants into two groups, one which only slept from 4 AM to 8 AM and one which slept from 10 PM to 8 AM. Both groups were served meals at the same time and had food available at all hours if they wanted to eat outside of meal times. Participants were not allowed to exercise, but they were permitted to walk around. Sedentary activities were available for recreation.
If people were permitted to exercise as they desired, there may have been greater variation within groups as personal exercise habits would have a role in burning calories. Under the controlled settings, those who slept more gained less weight than those with restricted sleep hours. The researchers also found racial and gender differences in the results. African-Americans gained more weight than Caucasians and men gained more weight than women.
Consistent, adequate sleep is regularly linked with health and wellness benefits. WebMD highlights some of these benefits. Getting at least seven or eight hours of sleep a night can result in better health, less chronic pain, a better sex life, lower risk for injuries, better moods, a stronger immune system, clarity of thought, and a better memory.
Numerous studies have confirmed the health effects of sleep. One study considered the condition of obstructive sleep apnea and disordered breathing during sleep. These conditions disturb sleep patterns and are exacerbated with weight gain. The study found a link between cardiovascular health and these types of conditions. Better sleep and mitigation of conditions that disturb sleep can help protect heart health.
Finally, one of the objectives of the Healthy People 2020 initiative focuses on sleep health. With 25 percent of U.S. adults reporting inadequate sleep at least half of all nights, health and safety are compromised. The initiative identifies impacts related to heart disease, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and infection, aiming to increase adequate sleep in adults and teenagers.