Sleeping Habits

A new study finds that sleeping habits are as important as physical activity and a healthy diet in preventing obesity.


Obesity is a growing health issue in many countries worldwide.  An alarming number of studies have shown that an elevated body mass index is linked to a higher risk of disease and death.

The correlation between a person’s weight and their dietary and exercise habits is well known. Modern research is now focused on identifying obesity-related genes and studying their impact on a person’s weight.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition investigated whether sleeping habits influenced body mass index and waist circumference in those with a validated genetic profile risk score for obesity.

The study included cross-sectional data from 119,859 white European adults, 37 to 73 years of age, participating in the UK Biobank, an international databank for health researchers. Sleep duration, napping, shift work, night-shift work, and chronotype were examined.

Researchers found significant interactions between a genetic risk for obesity, body mass index, waist circumference, and sleeping habits:

  • Participants who slept less than 7 hours and more than 9 hours were more likely to have a higher body mass index and waist circumference than participants who slept between 7 and 9 hours per night. The higher the genetic predisposition to obesity, the larger the impact of sleep duration on body mass index;
  • Both shift and night shifts workers were more likely to have a higher body mass index and waist circumference than non-shift workers and daytime workers;
  • Those who took naps during the day had higher body mass index and waist circumference compared to those who never or rarely took daytime naps;
  • Evening chronotypes, those who self-reported as being night owls, had more elevated body mass index and waist circumference than those who described themselves as morning persons.

The study indicates that sleeping patterns can moderate or worsen a genetic predisposition toward obesity.  Individuals desiring to prevent obesity and obesity-related disease should consider sleeping habits as important as diet and exercise.


Written By: Lynn Kim

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