Why do some people get fat and others do not? That is a difficult question with complicated answers. Of all the risk factors most people would mention in response to this question, sleep is usually overlooked, mostly because it is overshadowed by more prominent factors like exercise and eating habits.

However, sleeping habits are just as important, according to a recent study. And it isn’t merely an issue of sleeping too few hours but also sleeping for too many hours. But again, the same question is likely to crop up here: some people have terrible sleeping habits and they never gain weight; others nap a little too much and they can barely keep up with all the pounds they are accumulating. Why is that?obesity-and-sleep-patterns

Sleeping Habits and Weight Gain

According to Doctor Jason Gill, the co-author of a study on this issue published on the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, poor sleeping habits alone cannot drive obesity. Rather, poor sleeping habits must be paired with people who are already genetically predisposed to obesity.

Doctor Gill, who hails from the University of Glasgow in the UK, specifically the institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, isn’t the first person to take an interest in the risk factors of obesity. Obesity has become an epidemic in Western nations, and most efforts to stem the tide have shown almost no results. Obesity is still gaining ground.

There were suggestions a long time ago that obesity probably runs in families, and studies eventually validated these theories by discovering genes that supposedly increase the susceptibility of an individual to weight gain.

Doctor Gill’s research takes these revelations a step further by exploring the idea that people with these obesity genes who either sleep too much or don’t get enough sleep are more likely to gain weight. Gill used the UK Biobank to acquire data for his study. The biobank is a resource that stores the health data of hundreds of thousands of adults from across the United Kingdom.

With his sights set on the data of over a hundred thousand adults between the ages of 37 and 73, Gill took into account the average sleep duration of each individual with the genetic risk of obesity as well as their penchant for napping during the day.

Using variables like waist circumference and Body Mass Index, Gill found that subjects who slept less than seven hours at night were roughly 2kgs heavier. On the other hand, subjects who slept more than nine hours at night were an estimated 4kgs heavier. This was in comparison to the people who slept within the bounds of the recommended 7-9 hours.

Gill also found that one’s form of employment mattered. Subjects who worked shifts and, thus, who were likely to nap in the day, tended to be heavier, at least in comparison to people who neither sleep in the day nor work shifts.

Gill’s study was extensive enough to determine that sleeping habits had no tangible impact on people without the genetic factor risk of obesity. To an extent, this study doesn’t really change anything on the ground. Rather, it merely emphasizes the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, especially for those people who are genetically predisposed to obesity.