IF you want to lose fat, getting the right amount of sleep each night may be just as crucial to shedding excess pounds as diet and regular exercise.

Research presented at a Canadian conference on obesity this week in Vancouver shows a strong link between lack of sleep and increased fat, as well as an increased risk of several life-threatening diseases.
The findings, suggested researchers, will lead to sleep being added to treatment regimes for obesity, diabetes and other ailments.



The research reveals that body-chemical changes caused by lack of sleep lead to weight gain, and that disruption of normal sleep patterns can destroy the body’s ability to regulate appetite.



In modern societies people are sleeping nearly two hours less each night than they did 40 years ago, said Esra Tasali of the University of Chicago.



To find out if there is a link between soaring obesity rates in the industrialised world and a lack of sleep, researchers in Chicago studied metabolic changes in healthy young adults.



The adults were divided into three groups, one group had their daily sleep restricted to four hours, the second group was allowed a normal eight hours while the third group was granted an extended sleep period of 12 hours.
The sleep-deprived adults quickly experienced cravings for high-calorie sweets, while their metabolisms resembled that of people with diabetes.



There was an increased glucose tolerance after six days of just four hours in bed, Mr Tasali told researchers at the annual meeting of NAASO, The Obesity Society.



Separate research presented here found that a lack of sleep can also contribute to several life-threatening diseases.



James Gangwisch and Steven Heymsfield of New York analysed a US government National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey seeking links between lack of sleep and hypertension, diabetes and heart attack.



The study, they concluded, showed that sleep deprivation was associated with significantly increased risks to such conditions.



Other researchers, who studied sleep patterns and obesity rates among 323 men and 417 women in the Canadian province of Quebec, showed that people who get the least sleep have the most body fat.



The study, which examined body fat as well as the levels of the hormone leptin, found that people who slept seven to eight hours were the most healthy, compared to those who received less or too much sleep.



The findings suggest that the optimum amount of sleep is 7.7 hours each night, said Jean-Philippe Chaput who worked on the Quebec study.



He said while much more research is needed before medical treatment plans can be adopted, ensuring that people get adequate sleep will soon become a standard part of the treatment for obesity.



It is possible that in a couple of years, sleep will be added to diet and physical activity in tackling weight loss, Mr Chaput said.



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