The study found that women who slept for five hours per night were 32% more likely to experience major weight gain (defined as an increase of 33 pounds or more) and 15% more likely to become obese over the course of the 16-year study compared with women who slept seven hours. Women who slept for six hours were 12% more likely to have major weight gain and 6% more likely to become obese compared with women who slept seven hours a night.
The study included 68,183 middle-aged women who were enrolled in the Nurses Health Study. They were asked in 1986 about their typical night’s sleep, and were then asked to report their weight every two years for 16 years. On average, women who slept five hours or less per night weighed 5.4 pounds more at the beginning of the study than those sleeping seven hours and gained an additional 1.6 pounds more over the next ten years.
“That may not sound like much, but it is an average amount - some women gained much more than that, and even a small difference in weight can increase a person’s risk of health problems such as diabetes and hypertension,” said lead researcher Sanjay Patel, M.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH.
The researchers looked at the women’s diets and exercise habits to see if they could account for part of the findings. “Prior studies have shown that after just a few days of sleep restriction, the hormones that control appetite cause people to become hungrier, so we thought that women who slept less might eat more. But in fact they ate less,” Dr. Patel said. “That suggests that appetite and diet are not accounting for the weight gain in women who sleep less.”
The researchers also asked women about how much they participated in exercise activities such as running, jogging or playing tennis. But they didn’t find any differences in physical activity that could explain why women who slept less weighed more.
MEDICA.de; Source: American Thoracic Society (ATS)