Even if you do all the right things during your waking hours – eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly – you cannot claim to live a rounded healthy lifestyle if you stay up all hours.
Ensuring you sleep the recommended minimum of seven hours a night is an underrated aspect of staying fit and healthy, with long-standing sleep issues linked to a greater risk of heart disease and diabetes.
There are short-term gains to be had from sleeping more too: a new study links catching sufficient Zs with a smaller waist circumference, lower weight and higher levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.
The University of Leeds study, which was published in the journal PLOS One, monitored the sleep patterns of 1,615 participants and kept records of their food intake. The participants also had blood samples taken and their weight, waist circumference and blood pressure measured.
Sleepers who came up short were more likely to be overweight or obese and those who slept six hours a night had waist circumferences that were 3cm greater than people who slept nine hours a night.
Intriguingly, the study did not find that people who slept less also had less healthy diets – something that has been found in past studies. This means that, in this study at least, the extra girth can’t simply be put down to the lack of rest resulting in poorer dietary decisions.
The current consensus recommends getting seven to nine hours of sleep a night. There are many people for whom that’s a pipe dream (special shout-out to all the parents of young children out there) but there are at least equal amounts of us who don’t get seven hours but could by saving one episode of Better Call Saul for the next day.
If you’re meticulous in eating all the right food and hitting at least 150 minutes of activity every week, it might be worth giving your sleep equal attention. If simply lying down and shutting your eyes isn’t working, try this list of measures you can take to improve your rest and ensure you get enough of it.