A systematic search of research literature has revealed a consistent worldwide relationship between short sleep patterns and obesity both in childhood and adulthood. Francesco Cappuccio, MD and his team from the Warwick Medical School in the UK, reviewed 696 studies, from which 12 studies on children and 17 studies on adults met the stringent inclusion criteria.
Although the number of studies may appear small, the sample sizes within the studies were extensive. For example, the child studies provided a pool of data from 30,002 participants from around the world. Similarly the adult studies yielded a pool of 604,509 participants.
Dr Cappuccio states, "there is a striking consistent overall association, in that both obese children and adults had a significantly increased risk of being short sleepers compared to normal weight individuals." Dr Cappuccio also pointed out that at this stage it is not possible to assess whether shortness of sleep is a cause of obesity or vice versa, pointing out that only prospective longer term studies will be able to answer such a question.
The sleep-obesity link has also been identified in findings published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey which involved 87,000 U.S. adults. Here it was revealed that people who sleep less than six hours smoke more and drink more alcohol than those who average eight hours of sleep a night. The highest rates of obesity (33%) were found in those who sleep less than six hours a night and this pattern affected both men and women from most of the race/ethnic groups studied.
The number of obese children and adults is increasing. It is estimated that 17 percent of children are overweight or obese as are 61 percent of adults in the 20-74 age group. Increased weight is associated with a higher risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA can lead to daytime tiredness, so increasing the risk of accidents. People with OSA have an increased risk of heart disease and stroke and roughly half snore very loudly.
American Academy of Sleep Medicine (2008, May 2). Short Sleep Duration Linked To Obesity, Consistently and Worldwide. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 15, 2008, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080501062808.htm
Jerry Kennard is a psychologist & co-founder of www.embarrassments.co.uk
Published On: May 19, 2008