Sleep your way skinny

Plenty of people come from an overweight family. I’m certainly one of those people. Every one of us tipped the scales far higher than is healthy.  For us, it was due to a great Italian tradition–eating too much pasta. In fact, eating too much everything.

But there is such a thing as “obesity genes.” Some people truly have inherited a genetic tendency to gain weight. But that doesn’t mean you can’t beat the tendency!

Here’s another way to tip the scale in your favor. A new study shows that getting enough sleep can help overcome those obesity genes. It’s published in the June issue of the journal Sleep.

The study involved 1,088 twin pairs in the University of Washington Twin Registry. Researchers analyzed each twin’s self-reported data on height, weight, and sleep patterns.

“Short sleep” meant less than 7 hours nightly. “Normal sleep” was 7 to 8.9 hours. “Long sleep” was 9 hours or more.

And here’s what researchers found:

  • Those who slept longer had lower BMI, compared to those who slept less.
  • Those who slept less increased their genetic risk of higher BMI.
  • Over 9 hours of sleep resulted in the least weight gain.
  • 7 to 9 hours sleep reduced weight gain in 40 percent of the twins.
  • 70 percent of those who slept less than 7 hours of sleep gained weight.

A few months ago, I told you about a similar pattern in a study on exercise, weight gain, and genetics. In that study, regular exercise helped people overcome that genetic tendency to gain weight.

This study shows us that sleep is equally important. Just be careful that you’re not sleeping in late in order to get those extra zzz’s. Sleeping in late has been linked to gaining weight.

But a good night’s sleep…I can’t think of an easier way to beat obesity, even if you’re predisposed to it.