Losing weight can directly aid in bettering the quality of sleeping among obese or overweight people, according to a study being presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions.

The researchers found that improvement in sleep quality was meaningfully associated with weight loss, either from changes in diet or a diet combined with exercise. Sleep quality improvement was also seen specifically connected with loss in belly fat.

Previous research has told us that lack of sleep and obesity often go hand-in-handA study done by a team at The Pennsylvania State University reminds us that there is a curious relationship between sleep deprivation and fat storage, making sleep deprivation a factor in weight loss.

The study, lead by Kerry Stewart, Ed.D., professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of clinical and research exercise physiology, was conducted over a 6-month period and recruited 77 participants who had type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes.

All participants were overweight or obese and were randomly designated to one of two groups. The first group went on a weight loss diet and exercise regimen, while the second group received only a diet intervention. The number of total participants who completed the entire study was 55.

All participants answered the Hopkins Sleep Survey at the start and end of the study to pinpoint sleep problems such as sleep apnea, restless sleep, excessive sleep or sleepiness, daytime fatigue, insomnia and the use of oral sleep aids.

They also measured how much abdominal fat the participants carried, and body mass index, at the beginning and conclusion of the study.

Both groups, on average, lost around 15 pounds. Both groups also lost around 15 percent belly fat, which was measured using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Several different sleep problems were recorded by the volunteers, although none was seen as extremely common. The researchers examined a composite score, showing overall sleep, finding that both groups improved their sleep score by 20 percent.

Stewart says:

“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.”

Quality of sleep is imperative for good physical and mental health, as well as for a healthy cardiovascular system. Chronic sleep disruptions can elevate the risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, and stroke. Obesity boosts risks of sleep problems.

Written by Kelly Fitzgerald