As if losing weight isn’t hard enough in the first place, now our sleep habits might be making it even harder! A recent study done at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and published in the journal Sleep found that in people under 40 who got five or fewer hours of sleep per night (or, to a lesser extent, more than eight hours of sleep nightly) the accumulation of fat around the organs—also known as visceral fat—was higher. 

What a lot of folks don’t realize is that visceral fat is actually more dangerous than subcutaneous fat, which accounts for those familiar “love handles” and “thunder thighs”, and that fat around the organs is associated with some pretty significant health problems—including metabolic-related diseases like type 2 diabetes. Results further showed that women of minority seemed to be at the greatest risk for visceral fat accumulation, largely because they are the group that gets either too little or too much sleep. 

What this study helps bring to light is that fat accumulation—and the health consequences that come with it—does not occur simply because of poor eating habits, and that other factors such as sleep, stress and lifestyle also play a large part in America’s growing obesity problem. This concept of looking at the ‘whole picture’ is one that natural health practitioners have been practicing for decades, and it’s essential for all of us to remember if we’re going to make important changes in how we look at our health.

As for the study, researchers concluded that getting between six and eight hours of sleep each night is best, which coincides with many other studies linking sleep and overall health. While each person may differ, the best way to test if you are getting enough sleep is to gauge your sleepiness when you wake up. Sure, some people take longer to transition from sleep to waking, but if you’re still really groggy an hour after waking, you’re probably not getting enough sleep.