by Simone Cadwell

Counting sheep

A healthy diet helps you sleep

Combine diet and exercise to improve sleep
Healthy living improves sleep

Sleep quality is important for both physical and mental health. Disruptions in sleep can increase risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and irregular heartbeat. The risk of sleep problems is greater for people who are obese.

To conduct the study, 77 overweight or obese volunteers with type two diabetes or pre-diabetes were required. The volunteers were divided into two groups. One group focussed on diet and the other combined diet with exercise.

The volunteers completed a sleep survey at the beginning and end of the study. In the survey, they provided information on sleeping difficulties, such as sleep apnea, daytime sleepiness, insomnia, as well as excessive or restless sleep. The researchers also measured the participants’ belly fat and body mass index (a measurement based on height and weight) at the beginning and end of the study.

Over the course of six months both groups lost an average of about 6.8 kilograms and also shed about 15% of their belly fat, the investigators found. Both groups improved their sleep quality equally by 20%.

“We found that improvement in sleep quality was significantly associated with overall weight loss, especially belly fat. 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 the study’s senior author, Kerry Stewart, a professor of medicine at the John Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of clinical and research exercise physiology.

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