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Lack of sleep in male military population linked to obesity: study

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For members of Canada’s military, who often have rigid schedules and demanding physical tasks, a lack of sleep is associated with obesity—particularly in males—according to a new study from Statistics Canada.

Despite sleep being one of the components of the Canadian Armed Forces Physical Performance Strategy, problems with sleep are common for those in the military population, according to the study.

To determine how sleep affects obesity in military members, researchers used data from the 2019 Canadian Armed Forces Health Survey. 

Study respondents were asked questions related to sleep, including how often they have trouble falling or staying asleep, how often they wake up feeling refreshed, and how often it's challenging to stay awake when they want to.

The researchers also categorized respondents through variables such as age, work characteristics including level of employment and health factors such as stress and physical activity.

Based on the data, the study found that females were much more likely to sleep for the recommended amount of time, (seven to ten hours), however they were more likely to report issues falling asleep or staying asleep, and worse quality of sleep.

Research showed obesity was much more evident for those who had less than six hours of sleep or bad sleep. This was particularly true for men—40.4 per cent of which reported sleeping an adequate amount of hours compared to approximately 48.7 per cent of women.

Study authors say more investigation is needed to explore differences between sexes based on their findings.

Getting enough sleep can improve people’s mood, cognitive function, and productivity—in the context of the military, sleep can affect areas such as readiness for deployment, physical training, and testing, according to the study.

On the other hand, not getting enough sleep can affect obesity through hormonal and food-related behavioural changes. Study authors say getting less sleep can lead to eating more as a result of biological or hormonal impacts from fatigue, which can potentially lead to obesity.

Obesity can cause a number of chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, forms of cancer, asthma, back pain, osteoarthritis and gallbladder disease.

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