Poor sleep linked to higher BMI
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A "good night's sleep" may be more important than we think. In addition to allowing us to feel rested, energetic and clear-thinking, studies have shown that there are connections between sleep and heart health. There also has been research demonstrating that sleep may affect body weight.

The latest to shed light on the sleep-weight connection is a study, which indicates that body mass index, or BMI (which measures the percentage of body fat) is linked to length and quality of sleep in a surprisingly consistent fashion.

Researchers suggested that stress could disrupt the length and quality of sleep, as well as increase eating and other behaviors contributing to weight gain. Also, getting less sleep appears to cause a reduction in leptin, a hormone that triggers the feeling of fullness, perhaps causing short sleepers to eat more.

On average, adults need regular episodes of about eight hours 15 minutes per 24-hour period - but that is a statistical average. The range is much broader four hours to 10 hours, depending on the individual. Children require about ninehours, and teens may need a little more. By adulthood, adults generally need about eight hours per night Contrary to common belief, aging in itself does not reduce the amount of sleep required, he noted. Other things may conspire to interferewith a regular schedule of nighttime sleeping though, such as medical conditions, orthopedic issues, medications, mental health and living circumstances - whether one has to get up at the same time each morning to go to work or is retired, for example.

The result is that older people often break up their sleep into shorter episodes at night combined with daytime napping.

If you want to pinpoint the ideal amount of sleep for you, a six-rnonth experiment is suggested. Attempt to get very regular amounts of a certain length of sleep for a few weeks, and keep a diary recording how you feel duringthat period. For example, get seven hours of sleep per night for three to four weeks, noting what time you go to bed and get up, when you nap and how you feel. Keep those regular sleep hours on weekdays, weekends and holidays. Then expand your sleep time to seven hours 20 minutes per night for three to four weeks recording similar variables. Then, expand to seven hours 40 minutes per night for three to four weeks, and so on. Over six months, you will be able to zero in on the amount of sleep needed to feel rested and be functioning in peak form.

Early humans may have slept less during the long days of summer when food was plentiful, and their bodies may have then stored extra fat in anticipation of the winter, when food would be scarce. Perhaps the bodies of short sleepers now function as though it is perpetually summer, and they are always storing as much fat as possible.

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