Researchers from King’s College London are reporting that getting more sleep each night can help reduce a person’s sugar intake and lead to an overall healthier diet.
Lack of sleep can make an individual more prone to certain conditions such as obesity and cardio-metabolic disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every three adults is not getting enough sleep.
The researchers developed a trial for adults who were getting less than the recommended seven hours per night to see if it was feasible for them to get more sleep. The team also set out to investigate the impact that extended sleep may have on nutrient intake.
21 participants were given a 45-minute sleep consultation with the goal of extending their sleep by up to 1.5 hours per night. A control group, which was also made up of 21 participants, received no sleep intervention.
After the consultation, the individuals kept food diaries and wore sleep monitors for seven days. The sleep trackers measured how long the participants slept and also how long they were in bed before falling asleep.
The study revealed that getting more sleep resulted in a 10-gram reduction in sugar intake. The participants who extended their amount of sleep also reported a decline in their overall intake of carbohydrates.
“The fact that extending sleep led to a reduction in intake of free sugars, by which we mean the sugars that are added to foods by manufacturers or in cooking at home as well as sugars in honey, syrups and fruit juice, suggests that a simple change in lifestyle may really help people to consume healthier diets,” said study co-author Dr. Wendy Hall.
The study also showed that 86 percent of those who received a sleep consultation increased time spent in bed, while half increased their sleep duration by 52 to 90 minutes. Three participants achieved a weekly average within the recommended seven to nine hours.
There were indications, however, that the extended sleep may have been of lesser quality than the control group. The researchers concluded that an adjustment period is needed to get used to the new routine.
“Sleep duration and quality is an area of increasing public health concern and has been linked as a risk factor for various conditions,” said lead author Haya Al Khatib. “We have shown that sleep habits can be changed with relative ease in healthy adults using a personalized approach.”
“Our results also suggest that increasing time in bed for an hour or so longer may lead to healthier food choices. This further strengthens the link between short sleep and poorer quality diets that has already been observed by previous studies.”
“We hope to investigate this finding further with longer-term studies examining nutrient intake and continued adherence to sleep extension behaviours in more detail, especially in populations at risk of obesity or cardio-vascular disease,” said Khatib.
The study is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.