Burn Belly Fat for a Better Night’s Sleep

Weight loss, particularly abdominal fat loss, improves sleep quality in people who are overweight or obese, new research finds.

Losing weight — through diet alone or diet and exercise combined — might be the ticket to sounder sleep in people who are overweight or obese, researchers from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine report at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions in Los Angeles.

A loss of belly fat in particular was associated with better sleep quality in the study’s 77 participants, all of whom have either type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes.

For the six-month study, participants received either diet and exercise training or a diet intervention alone. At the beginning and end of the study, participants filled out the Hopkins Sleep Survey, which identifies sleep problems, such as sleep apnea, daytime fatigue, and insomnia.

Participants in both groups lost about 15 pounds and shed about 15 percent of their belly fat. Both groups improved their overall sleep score by about 20 percent with no difference between the two 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,” said Kerry Stewart, EdD, professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of clinical and research exercise physiology, in a release.

Sleep and Your Weight

A growing mountain of evidence suggests that quality sleep is just as important to maintaining a healthy weight as a sensible diet and regular exercise, a commentary published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal said earlier this year. And poor sleep can do more than just prevent weight loss or cause weight gain. Sleep apnea, a disorder marked by abnormal breathing during sleep, increases a person’s risk for stroke and diabetes, among other conditions.

Even if you’re not overweight now, a lack of sleep could hurt your chances of staying slim. People who are sleep deprived tend to eat 500 or more additional calories a day, compared to their well-rested peers, a small study presented at an American Heart Association meeting last year found.

By Annie Hauser