Surprisingly, the connection between extremes of sleep and accumulation of visceral fat was seen only in patients under 40, Hairston said.
"We don't really know yet why this wasn't seen in participants over 40, but it was clear that, in individuals under 40, it is worse to get five or less hours of sleep on average each night than it is to get eight or more hours," Hairston said. "However, both may be detrimental and, in general, people should aim for six to eight hours of sleep each night."
The study appears in the March issue of Sleep, the journal of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, LLC.
The study raised important social questions for researchers, Hairston said, such as why so little sleep is such a problem in black women under age 40 and what circumstances may be contributing to their sleep patterns and likely to obesity and chronic disease development?
"This was certainly just a starting point," Hairston said. "We definitely know that a relationship exists between sleep and obesity. Now we need to know how this relationship can be modified."
Hairston added that it will be important for future obesity research to consider sleep patterns and the effect they can have on outcomes. Until the connection is understood, physicians should consider gathering information about sleep patterns just as they do other vital information when seeing patients. This information is especially relevant when treating patients about to make or in the middle of life transitions, such as college, marriage and childbearing, because such times are often associated with sleep deprivation in younger years.
"That information may help a physician put into context
|Contact: Jessica Guenzel|
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center