Getting more zzz’s may help you eat a little better, suggests a pilot study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Dubbed SLuMBER (for the Sleep Lengthening and Metabolic Health, Body composition, Energy Balance, and Cardiovascular Risk Study), it included 42 healthy, normal-weight adults in the U.K., ages 18 to 64, who were habitually short sleepers (five to seven hours a night), not due to shift work, sleep-related disorders, or other such factors.
Half were given a personalized sleep consultation session, along with other resources, and signed a “behavioral contract” outlining specific behaviors they agreed to change to extend their sleep; the other half continued their usual sleep habits. All participants completed food diaries.
Participants in the intervention group not only increased their sleep time (most by 50 to 90 minutes a night), as measured by wrist monitors, they also decreased their intake of added sugars (by about 10 grams a day), thereby improving the quality of their diets. To put that into perspective, the American Heart Association recommends that women, on average, consume no more than 25 grams of added sugar a day (6 teaspoons), and men no more than 36 grams (9 teaspoons).
No changes were seen, however, in other dietary variables, body weight, energy intake or expenditure, cardiometabolic indicators, or appetite hormones, perhaps because the study was small and not long enough for such effects to occur.
Accumulating research has been linking shortened sleep to increased food intake and weight gain (and other health risks), but more studies are needed to see if getting more sleep has long-term benefits on weight control.
This article first appeared in the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.
Also seeSolving Your Sleep Problems.