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For women, inconsistent bedtimes linked to body fat, weight gain

Published: Friday, Nov. 15 2013 9:00 a.m. MST

Tucker said that other studies have shown sleep is important for many reasons, including brain function. "It's unbelievable how important getting enough sleep and being consistent in sleep is. The body doesn't function well if we don't get regular sleep and enough sleep. People who don't sleep consistently end up with problems of all sorts," he said, "not just cognitive function but personality function, too."

Several studies have linked sleep to weight. Last year, the University of Chicago showed that fat cells become less sensitive to insulin when sleep duration is reduced. A Chicago study of men noted that those who are sleep-deprived crave and consume calorie-dense foods, increasing their weight.

While a University of Colorado study found that people who stay up very late burn more calories, that study also demonstrated that night owls also eat enough more to actually gain weight despite the quicker metabolism, compared to people who sleep for around nine hours a night. The proverbial midnight oil appears to stick to the belly and thighs. And Stanford research showed that those sleeping fewer than eight hours had more body fat — and the fewer the hours slept, the higher their weight.

International studies also back up a sleep-weight connection. For example, a Czech study conducted by researchers at the Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine concluded that the best body weight and most healthy BMI numbers were associated with seven hours of sleep.

Sleep needs vary among individuals, but the Centers for Disease Control and the National Sleep Foundation both recommend adults get between 7 and 9 hours per night, while the National Institutes of Health sets the goal at 7 to 8 hours a night. Adolescent girls are supposed to get between 8 and 10 hours.

Sleep hygiene

Health experts refer to sleep hygiene, and Bailey is no exception. He pointed out a number of things that people can do to make sure they get good quality sleep, including "the nature of the bedroom and what you do in your bedroom. Is it a cue for sleep or are you using it for other things?" Factors like temperature, the bedroom's lighting and how active a person is during the day "all have some influence on the quality of your sleep," he said.

Other BYU coauthors are James LeCheminant, also an exercise science professor, and statistics professor William Christensen.

EMAIL: lois@deseretnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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