It's no secret that America has a sleep problem. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared sleep deprivation an official public health concern, noting that 50 to 70 million adults have a sleep or wakefulness disorder. Not that we needed them to tell us this—just ask any of your coworkers if they're tired today. You already know the answer.
You probably also know that America has an obesity problem. More than a third of adults in this country—that's nearly 80 million people—qualify as obese, according to the CDC.
Sleep and obesity experts have long believed that these two epidemics may be connected, given that sleep deprivation has been shown to lead to weight gain. When your body doesn’t get enough sleep, the hormones leptin and ghrelin—which control hunger and fullness—get thrown out of whack. As a result, your body thinks it's in a state of famine, and you’re more likely to crave high calorie food.
Not only that, being overweight can lead to serious sleep problems. "As the person gains weight, especially in the trunk and neck area, the risk of sleep-disordered breathing increases due to compromised respiratory function," explains Margaret Moline, a sleep specialist at New York Weill Cornell Medical Center, in a report for the National Sleep Foundation. This results in a vicious cycle between lack of sleep and obesity.
With these two major public health concerns in mind, the folks at HealthGrove, which describes itself as "a health news and information site with an emphasis on data-driven analysis," decided to map the CDC's most recent sleep and obesity data. And sure enough, they discovered that when you compare sleep deprivation and obesity numbers by state, the two are indeed correlated.
In other words? The states getting the worst sleep are also packing on the most pounds.
For example, take West Virginia, which wins the title for the most sleep deprived and most obese state. About 35% of the state's adult population is obese, and 37% is sleep deprived.
The next four most sleep deprived states are Kentucky, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Missouri. Except for Missouri, all of these states are also in the top ten for highest obesity rates.
On the other hand, states like California, Colorado, and Vermont, which rank low in sleep deprivation, also rank lower in obesity.
Sleep researchers say that adults between 18 and 64 should be clocking 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night—and just one night of poor sleep can have serious health consequences. When you don't get enough quality sleep, you'll experience lower cognitive function, crave high-calorie foods, see your stress levels rise, and generally feel like crap.
Not only that, longterm sleep deprivation has been linked to depression, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, loss of libido, sexual dysfunction, premature aging, a suppressed immune system (you’re more likely to catch a cold), and even early death.
Moral of the story? Get some freaking sleep.
Taryn Hillin is Fusion's love and sex writer, with a large focus on the science of relationships. She also loves dogs, Bourbon barrel-aged beers and popcorn — not necessarily in that order.