A BYU professor in the exercise science department recently conducted a sleep and weight study that supports a new national study claiming that increasing a person’s sleep duration by a small amount at night can help decrease the consumption of calories during the day.
Bruce Bailey, a BYU professor specializing in weight management and obesity, said the effects of sleep have a significant impact on fitness in college-aged women.
“We looked at patterns and consistency in patterns. We found that consistency was stronger than just duration,” Bailey said. “How consistent you are of when you go to bed and when you get up is much stronger in relation to less body fat,” Bailey said.
The study concluded that on average, the students who slept for about eight hours each night had a lower body fat percentage, but when they slept more than eight hours, body fat percentage increased.
“If you’re getting between seven and eight and a half hours of sleep, you’re probably in great shape,” Bailey said.
An article on The Almagest tells the details of the national study conducted. The study, called “Changes in Children’s Sleep Duration on Food Intake, Weight, and Leptin,” concluded that school-age children who slept more consumed fewer calories during the day.
Although the study was conducted specifically on children, the overall findings apply to college-aged students as well. Vernon White, a family practitioner of 21 years, commented on sleep in relation to weight and overall health.
“Poor sleep habits lead to more obesity and weight gain,” White said.
Many college students have grown accustomed to irregular sleep schedules. It’s common to find a sleep-deprived student running off three hours of sleep to cram all night for an early exam and then sleeping for 14 hours the next night to catch up on sleep.
“It appears that (sleep) actually helps focus the mind on learning and helps incorporate memory,” White said. “Your brain is actually more active when you’re asleep than when you’re watching television. Cramming for tests actually deteriorates long-term memory.”
Students can increase quality of sleep by making sure the conditions in the room are comfortable, i.e. no lighting, a comfortable temperature, and avoiding homework in bed.
“People with better sleep hygiene, schedules and sleep quality tend to have lower body fat,” Bailey said. “Go to sleep at a good time, and wake up at the same time, even on the weekends, so your body can develop a rhythm.”
Even though it’s tempting to stay up all night studying and partying, remember how important it is to get a good night’s rest.
“It restores the mind,” White continued. “It’s kind of like a reset on a computer. When your computer gets full of bugs and slows down, it’s kind of the same thing. It resets it.”