Scientists from the University of Copenhagen found that not getting enough good quality sleep undermines people’s attempts to keep weight off after dieting.
They also suggest that around two hours of vigorous physical activity per week can help maintain better sleep.
The research was presented at European Congress on Obesity and was conducted by Adrian F. Bogh et al.
More than a third of adults in the UK and the U.S. don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis (defined as less than 6 or 7 hours per night, respectively), due to a host of aspects of modern life including stress, computers, smart devices, and the blurring of work-life boundaries.
Not getting enough sleep or getting poor quality sleep increases risks for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and atherosclerosis (fatty deposits building up in arteries).
Not getting enough sleep is linked to obesity, diabetes, and inflammation, all of which can worsen cardiovascular disease.
Sleeping too much or too little also has been shown to increase the risk of stroke, heart attack, and death. It has been suggested that sleep habits may be a contributing factor in weight regain after a weight loss.
In the study, the team analyzed data from 195 adults (age 18 to 65 years) with obesity followed a very low-calorie diet (800 kcal/day) for eight weeks and lost an average of 12% of their body weight.
Participants were then assigned to one year of weight loss maintenance with either: daily injection of placebo, daily 3mg injection of the weight-loss drug liraglutide, four exercise sessions per week, or a combination of both treatments.
The team found that following the 8-week low-calorie diet, sleep quality and sleep duration improved in all participants.
Notably, after one year of weight maintenance, participants in the exercise groups maintained self-reported sleep quality improvements achieved from the low-calorie diet, while non-exercise groups relapsed.
Liraglutide treatment had no strong effect on any sleep quality or duration compared to placebo.
The team also showed that participants who slept on average less than 6 hours per night at the start of the study increased their BMI by 1.3 kg/m2 compared to longer sleepers.
Similarly, poor sleepers increased their BMI by 1.2 kg/m2 compared to good sleepers.
The team says sleep health is strongly related to weight loss maintenance.
Future research should examine possible ways of improving sleep in adults with obesity. Weight loss maintained with exercise seems promising in improving sleep.
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