Can Improved Sleep Habits Reduce Obesity Risk?
by Lisa DiFalco
Having an issue getting a full night of sleep? Whether due to a busy lifestyle, blue light influence, changing shifts, a new baby or another reason, poor quality sleep on a regular basis can interfere with the body’s ability to operate at an optimal level. Sleep quality can impact work performance but also may influence the development of obesity. Those who become obese may be at a higher risk of certain serious health conditions. Explore the findings of the new study out of the University of Glasgow on sleep habits and ways to get a better night’s sleep.
The University of Glasgow Study
Researchers reviewed data on approximately 120,000 UK Biobank participants for their study examining the relationship between genes, obesity and sleep habits. They looked at the impact of sleeping less than seven hours, sleeping over nine hours, shift work and daytime napping. What is interesting is that participants with poor sleeping habits appear to be impacted differently when those with a lower genetic obesity risk are compared with others with a high genetic obesity risk. Genes may predispose one to be more susceptible to the effects of poor sleep habits. Findings of the study included:
- No direct link between body weight and sleep duration in participants with a low genetic risk of obesity.
- Those with a high genetic risk of obesity and either experienced “short-sleep” or “long-sleep” durations appeared to increase their risk of “carrying excess weight.” When compared with people at high genetic risk of obesity who had normal sleep durations, long sleepers were approximately 4 kg heavier and short sleepers were found to be 2 kg heavier.
Dr. Jason Gill of the Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences shared:
“These data show that in people with high genetic risk for obesity, sleeping for too short or too long a time, napping during the day and shift work appears to have a fairly substantial adverse influence on body weight. However, the influence of adverse sleep characteristics on body weight is much smaller in those with low genetic obesity risk – these people appear to be able to ‘get away’ with poorer sleep habits to some extent.”
This study appears to be the first on the topic. Additional research would be necessary to corroborate findings and explore interactions in more depth.
Enjoy Better Sleep
There are ways to improve sleep quality and experience the benefits of regular quality sleep. Changing shifts and family responsibilities can interfere with the best of intentions to sleep from seven to nine hours a night. Some tips for improved sleep from the Mayo Clinic are:
- Create a space made for sleeping. Keep the room at a comfortable temperature. Use window treatments and earplugs to reduce sunlight and noise. Select bedding that supports the body’s need for comfort. Have children or pets sleep in another area to reduce any potential sleep interruptions.
- Establish bedtime routines. Daily routines send signals to the body that it is time to prepare for sleep. Suggestions to include in a routine are listening to relaxing music, reading a book or taking a warm bath. Be cautious about incorporating electronic devices into a bedtime ritual. Screen time and blue light may have a negative influence on sleep quality.
- Eat or drink in moderation. Going to bed hungry or eating large, heavy meals may cause discomfort. Avoid drinking beverages right before bed to prevent the urge to urinate from interrupting a deep sleep. Alcohol can also be disruptive to quality sleep. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and may make it harder to get to sleep.
- Develop a consistent sleep schedule. Consistency in a sleep schedule promotes quality sleep. Try to get up and go to bed at the same time seven days a week. Nurses, doctors and healthcare professionals on shifts may have difficulty with creating regular sleep schedules. Try to get all morning shifts or all evening shifts to improve the ability to work on a more consistent bedtime routine.
- Keep daytime napping to a minimum. Daytime naps can make it difficult to get to sleep at night. For those that do nap during the day, keep the nap to 10 to 30 minutes and try to nap in the mid-afternoon. Those working nights need not worry about daytime napping.
- Manage stress levels. Good sleep can be difficult to get when issues arise. Finding ways to manage stress can help make it easier to get a restful night’s sleep. Setting priorities, delegating tasks, taking breaks, talking with a good friend and jotting down items to attend to later can help reduce stress levels.
- Incorporate physical activity into the daily routine. Physical activity has been shown to support quality sleep. Exercise earlier in the day to enjoy the boost and get a deep sleep in the evening. Those that exercise too late at night might find it difficult to get to sleep at a desired time.
There are a number of ways to improve sleep quality for children and adults. As many are aware, obesity in children is an issue in the United States. Regular bedtime routines and normal amounts of sleep can support the development and maintain the health of children and adults. The suggestions above are safe for individuals of any age. Children and adults with a high genetic risk for obesity may find them particularly beneficial.
Families, educators, case managers and healthcare professionals may all find it useful to learn more about new research on sleep habits and methods to improve sleep quality naturally. If there is a link between sleep habits, genes and obesity, there may be additional advantages to getting a good night’s sleep.