It’s usually pretty easy to see when a co-worker or a family member has had a rough night of sleep. Their lethargic walk, slow speech and the dark circles beneath their bloodshot eyes are a dead giveaway. But, there’s one symptom of a chronic lack of sleep that may be hidden from most people’s view (unless they’re on the beach) – belly fat! Yes, love handles may not just be a symptom of being well taken care of. Recent studies show that belly fat is a symptom of a lack of sleep. Everyone wants to lose a few pounds but belly fat can also be a precursor to other major heath problems including high cholesterol and diabetes.
A study published in the scientific journal, Sleep, examined the relationship between sleep deprivation in African American and Hispanic Americans and its relationship to the accumulation of belly fat. The study also took into account the type of belly fat – both the superficial fat layers just below the skin and the “visceral” fat that surrounds the abdominal organs.
The study included 332 African American and 775 Hispanic American men and women ages 18 to 81. At the outset, all reported on their sleep habits, diets, exercise levels and other lifestyle factors. The researchers used CT scans to measure participants’ abdominal fat, at the start of the study and again five years later. The results showed that “short sleepers” or those that got five hours of sleep or less each night showed a 32% gain in visceral fat versus a 13% gain among those who slept six or seven hours per night.
A recent article published by AARP Magazine found that when the body is sleep deprived, it releases more cortisol, a stress hormone, and high cortisol levels increase appetite which leads to belly fat. According to AARP Magazine, “too much cortisol triggers cravings for high-fat, high-sugar foods. What’s most troubling, though, is that stress eating doesn’t just pack on pounds; it packs on pounds in the worst place, your middle (cortisol stimulates fat production deep in the abdomen).”
Besides that fact that belly fat can make you look less than stunning in a tight shirt or jeans, belly fat is a serious predictor and cause of many major health issues. According to an article published in USA Today, “visceral or intra-abdominal fat, is linked to high cholesterol, high insulin, high triglycerides, high blood pressure and other problems. At greatest risk of developing health problems from too much hidden belly fat are men whose waists are wider than 40 inches and women whose waists are wider than 35 inches.”
Looking to reduce your belly fat to lower your risks of serious health issues and look better at the beach this summer? In addition to a healthy diet and plenty of exercise it’s time for you to make the decision to get at least seven and a half hours of sleep a night. One reason why you’re not getting enough nourishing sleep each night could be your mattress. A mattress that is over eight years old loses its shape, which could be causing you to lose your shape as well. A great night’s rest will do more for you than just make you full of energy and improve your concentration – it can help you lose that pesky layer around your midsection as well!