You know how you feel when you don’t get enough sleep. Foggy, lethargic, even irritable. When you aren't well-rested, you simply aren’t yourself. So it’s probably no surprise to learn that a consistent pattern of high-quality sleep at a clip of roughly eight hours per night is considered ideal.
But what you might not know is that this same pattern of consistent, high-quality sleep can have a positive impact on your midsection.
This according to a study recently reported in Forbes that finds a correlation between sleep quantity and body fat.
Sleep More, Weigh Less
So you wish you could snooze your way to a smaller belly? Researchers at Brigham Young suggest this might be more than just a pipe dream. In a study of 300 female college students, researchers found that those who slept less than 6.5 hours per night were likely to have higher body fat.
Incidentally, the same goes for those who sleep too much. Study participants sleeping more than 8.5 hours per night also showed higher rates of body fat. But those who slept in the range of 8 hours every night, who woke up close to the same time every day and who enjoy high quality sleep with little variance in length were likelier to possess the lowest levels of body fat.
According to Health Day, one possible explanation for this correlation is the fact that those who engage in healthier diet and regular exercise are also likelier to enjoy more regular and uninterrupted sleep. Still, researchers also concede that better sleep may indeed lead to some advantages in body composition. This is because inadequate sleep can throw your appetite-regulating hormones out of whack, causing food cravings and decreased metabolic efficiency.
Researchers from Brigham Young recognize that their findings are imperfect. The study was conducted with a decidedly small sample set and focused on a typically healthy age demographic for its experimental population. Likewise, researchers admit that few controls were levied over participants other than activity tracking. This means that we don’t know for certain how well these findings apply to other populations.
That said, the study would come on the heels of several research investigations suggesting a connection between how well you sleep and how much you weigh. For instance, a study published in a 2012 issue of the Obesity Journal revealed that among women ages 35-55 engaged in weight loss programs, those getting sufficient high-quality sleep increased their chances of weight loss by 33%.
Sleep On It
Of course, you can’t just sleep your way thin. An active lifestyle and balanced diet are still the most critical ingredients to reaching your optimal weight. But how you spend the hours between the end of one day and the start of the next may also have a big impact.
The bottom line, researchers say, is that a pattern of healthy regular sleep is connected to better all-around health and well-being. If you’re fighting the battle of the bulge, start by getting some rest!