Girl Sleeping in the Stars

Get More Sleep for a Healthier Diet

Sleeping for longer each night could help you naturally eat fewer sugary foods and have a generally healthier diet, according to a King's College London study.

Lack of sleep is a risk factor for various conditions including obesity and cardio-metabolic disease with some figures suggesting more than a third of adults in the UK are not getting enough sleep.

Researchers investigated the impact of increasing sleep hours on nutrient intake.

They found that extending sleep patterns resulted in a 10-gram reduction in intake of free sugars and reduced intake of total carbohydrates.

The principal investigator, Dr Wendy Hall, from the Department of Nutritional Sciences observed: '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.'

The 21 participants allocated to the sleep extension group undertook a 45-minute sleep consultation which aimed to extend their time in bed by up to 1.5 hours per night. A further 21 control group participants received no intervention in their sleep patterns.

Each participant in the sleep extension group received a list with a minimum of four appropriate sleep hygiene behaviours that were personalised to their lifestyle (such as avoiding caffeine before bed time, establishing a relaxing routine and not going to bed too full or hungry) and a recommended bed time.

For seven days following the consultation, participants kept sleep and estimated food diaries and a wrist-worn motion sensor measured exactly how long participants were asleep for, as well as time spent in bed before falling asleep. 86 per cent of those who received sleep advice increased time spent in bed and half increased their sleep duration (ranging from 52 minutes to nearly 90 minutes).

Lead researcher, Haya Al Khatib, from the Department of Nutritional Sciences commented:

'Sleep duration and quality is an area of increasing public health concern and has been linked as a risk factor for various conditions. 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.'

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