People who sleep less are more likely to be obese, smoke and drink heavily, besides doing very little exercise, a new survey has found.
According to Australian sleep experts, the study is the strongest yet to explain the benefits of a good night's sleep, reports News.com.au.
The researchers involved in the National Centre for Health Statistics study of 80,000 Americans found that people who get between seven and eight hours of sleep tend to be slimmer and generally live a healthier lifestyle than others.
And people who get less than six hours, or even more than nine hours, tend to weigh, drink, smoke and work more, but exercise less.
Researchers said that the relationship between sleep and the other factors was not clear but the connection was 'striking'.
Ron Grunstein, head of sleep research at the Woolcock Institute of Medical Research in Sydney, said that the findings were important.
"This is the largest study of its kind to show the link between sleep hours and lifestyle problems," Grunstein said.
"There's increasing proof that making the effort to get the right amount of sleep every night will have a positive impact not just on alertness, performance and other things like driving, but your weight and behaviour too," he added.
Grunstein said prospective studies had already suggested that less sleep could lead to obesity, especially in kids and teens.
But there was not yet any evidence that overweight or obese people could shed weight by sleeping more.
There was an alternative thought that regards obesity as an inflammatory condition, which interferes with sleep, but Grunstein said the evidence for this was 'unconvincing'.
With regards to drinking and smoking, both behaviours were known to interfere with sleep but it was also possible sleep deprivation was causing these 'risk-taking' behaviours.
"That fits with what we know about casinos wanting to keep people awake for long hours to gamble," he said.
He also found that sleep deprived people were more tired and less likely to exercise.