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Trouble Sleeping? Try Losing Weight

Researchers say it could improve your overall health

U.S. consumers buy millions of dollars worth of prescription and over-the-counter sleep aids each year but maybe all they need to do for a good night's rest is lose a little weight.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins have completed a study in which they determined that weight loss, whether it’s from dietary changes alone or from diet combined with exercise, can help improve the quality of sleep among people who are overweight or obese.

Weight loss and sleep quality

“We found that improvement in sleep quality was significantly associated with overall weight loss, especially belly fat,” says Kerry Stewart, Ed.D., professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of clinical and research exercise physiology.

Stewart and colleagues presented their findings this week at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions.

For the six-month study, the researchers enrolled 77 people who had type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes. The participants, all of whom also were overweight or obese, were randomly assigned to one of two groups.

One group went on a diet. The other combined a healthy diet with exercise. Then their sleep patterns were recorded.

20 percent improvement in sleep

Although a variety of sleep problems were reported by the participants, none stood out as being the most common, so the researchers analyzed a composite score, which reflects overall sleep health. What they found was that both groups improved their overall sleep score by about 20 percent with no differences between the groups.

“The key ingredient for improved sleep quality from our study was a reduction in overall body fat, and, in particular belly fat, which was true no matter the age or gender of the participants or whether the weight loss came from diet alone or diet plus exercise,” Stewart said.

Sleep may be an underestimated component of good health. It's important in general for good physical and mental health, as well as for a healthy cardiovascular system, Stewart says.

Depending on the cause, chronic sleep disruptions increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and irregular heartbeats. Obesity, Stewart says, increases the risk of sleep problems.

Pills may not be the solution. Hitting the gym might be.

Story provided by ConsumerAffairs.
Consumer Affairs

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