Health + Wellness

How a Lack of Sleep Can Widen Your Waistline


People who choose to skip sleep to study, work or play late into the night may find they’ve extended not just their waking hours but also their tummies.

Less sleep means more eating

A small new study found that the basic problem sources back to the fact that people who don’t get enough sleep tend to eat more. Even worse, all those extra calories wind up precisely where most people don’t want it: around the belly.

“Our work focused on people who chose to sleep less,” explains study author Dr. Virend Somers, a professor of cardiovascular medicine with the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minn. “It wasn’t about insomnia, so much as, say, a student in college who decides they find it necessary to sleep less for a while in order to get their work done.

“But what we found is that when a relatively young, healthy and lean person is sleep-deprived and has unrestricted access to food, he or she eats 300 more calories per day,” Somers adds.

That extra food did not appear to lead to enormous weight gains, the researchers acknowledge. Yet, it did appear to translate into a “stunning” 11% increase in so-called “visceral fat,” Somers shares.

“That’s the fat that wraps around the belly and the internal organs,” he notes. “The fat which you really can’t see. But it’s actually the most dangerous fat.”

That is because deeply deposited visceral fat “produces all kinds of toxic things that cause heart and blood vessel disease,” including high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high cholesterol — all of which can notably elevate the risk for developing diabetes.

RELATED: 7 Bad Sleeping Habits That Cause Weight Gain

How less sleep widens your waistline

Somers and his colleagues reported their findings in the April 5 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

They note that more than a third of American adults regularly fail to get enough sleep due to lifestyle choices, such as working night shifts or falling prey to the lure of social media.

To explore the impact of sleep loss on fat accumulation, investigators enlisted 12 healthy people aged 19 to 39 between 2013 and 2018.

None of the participants was obese. All were asked to complete two

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