Getting a better night’s sleep may lead to a healthier diet, including a reduced intake of sugary foods, according to a new U.K. study at King’s College London.
The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, looked at the feasibility of increasing nighttime sleep patterns by up to 1.5 hours in 21 adults who typically slept for less than the recommended seven hour minimum for adults.
The researchers also tested whether an increase in sleep might affect nutrient intake. They discovered that longer sleep patterns resulted in a 10-gram reduction in reported intake of free sugars compared to baseline levels. The researchers also noticed trends for reduced intake of total 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 principal investigator Dr. Wendy Hall from the Department of Nutritional Sciences.
A total of 21 participants in the sleep extension group received a 45-minute sleep consultation which aimed to extend their time in bed by up to 1.5 hours per night. A control group of 21 participants received no intervention in their sleep patterns.
Each person in the sleep extension group was given a list with a minimum of four appropriate sleep hygiene behaviors that were personalized to their lifestyle (such as avoiding caffeine before bedtime, establishing a relaxing routine and not going to bed too full or hungry) as well as a recommended bedtime.
For seven days following the consultation, participants completed sleep and food diaries. They also wore a motion sensor on their wrists that measured exactly how long they were asleep, as well as time spent in bed before falling asleep.
About 86 percent of participants who received sleep advice increased time spent in bed and half increased their sleep duration (ranging from 52 minutes to nearly 90 minutes). Three participants achieved a weekly average within the recommended seven to nine hours. There were no significant differences shown in the control group.
The data also suggested, however, that this extended sleep may have been of lesser quality than the control group and researchers believe that a period of adjustment to any new routine may be required.
“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 researcher Haya Al Khatib, a doctoral student in the department of nutritional sciences.
“We have shown that sleep habits can be changed with relative ease in healthy adults using a personalised 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 behaviors in more detail, especially in populations at risk of obesity or cardio-vascular disease,” she said.
Source: King’s College London