Study: Sleeping Longer Can Lead To A Healthier Diet

LONDON — In case you needed a reason to stay in bed more, a new study finds that sleeping longer may lead you to being a better eater.

The research by nutritionists at King’s College in the United Kingdom found that increasing total sleep time each day can result in less sugar intake and generally lead to a healthier overall diet.

Researchers first examined the feasibility of increasing sleep hours for adults who typically get less than the recommended seven hours each, then analyzed the effects of longer sleeping hours on nutritional intake. The team found that increasing sleep hours to optimal levels reduced sugar intake by 10 grams in most adults compared to baseline levels. Results also saw reduced carbohydrate intake for those whose sleep hours were increased.

“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,” explains principal investigator Dr. Wendy Hall, of the Department of Nutritional Sciences at King’s College, in a university release.

The research centered on a study of 21 participants who undertook a 45-minute sleep consultation in order to increase their sleep time by as much as 1.5 hours per night. Suggestions included not going to bed too full or too hungry and limiting caffeine intake at night. Their results were measured against a separate control group of 21 participants. For a week after the sleep consultation, the first group kept diaries recording sleep times and food consumption, and wore motion sensors on their wrist to get accurate readings of how much sleep they got each night.

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Eighty-six percent of the participants in the sleep consultation group successfully tallied more sleep than before the study began, adding anywhere from an additional 52 to 90 minutes, but it’s not clear just how quality that extra sleep was. Further research is needed to examine the type and quality of the extra sleep.

“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,” says Hall. “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 cardiovascular disease.”

The full study was published January 10, 2018 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.