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Researchers Find Link Between Male Sleeping Patterns, Body Fat

Aired August 16, 2000 - 1:48 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: In health news, it turns out men may need their beauty sleep, too. Researchers are finding a link between male sleeping patterns and body fat.

CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Perhaps these men wouldn't have paunchy bellies if only they slept better -- or at least that's the theory of a new study coming out in the "Journal of the American Medical Association." This study finds that older men don't get a lot of deep sleep. That's the dreamless level when it's hardest to wake up. A lack of deep sleep leads to decreased levels of growth hormone, which in turn leads to signs of aging: more fat, less muscle. So the researcher's theory: if we could only find a drug to increase deep sleep.

EVE VAN CAUTER, UNIV. OF CHICAGO MEDICAL CENTER: The appearance of the pouch belly would be delayed by a decade or two.

COHEN: She says treatment would have to start early, at around age 35 to 40. Her study found that, for men, before age 25, 20 percent of a night's sleep is deep sleep. Between ages 25 and 35, that drops to about 12 percent. After age 35, it's 5 percent or less.

Deep sleep has several advantages besides increasing growth hormone.

CAUTER: During deep sleep, our blood pressure is lower and our heart rate is lower so that, in a way, deep sleep allows for a temporary relief of our cardiovascular system.

COHEN: Sleep studies have shown that pre-menopausal women get more deep sleep than men do, but after menopause the sexes are pretty similar. Eve Van Cauter is now testing a drug used overseas to treat narcolepsy to see if it will also increase deep sleep.

(on camera): But some scientists wonder if it's worth the risk of medicating perfectly healthy people just to delay the natural aging process, especially since they say there are other, safer methods.

(voice-over): Studies show increasing body temperature seems to work, by taking a bath before going to bed, or: DON BLIWISE, EMORY UNIVERSITY, SLEEP DISORDER CENTER: Brief periods of exercise 20 to 30 minutes at a time, three to four times a week, have been shown to be helpful in improving sleep.

COHEN: The next step, scientists say, is to follow people over time and see if the ones who get more deep sleep really do appear younger.

Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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