Sleeping More May Curb Sugar Cravings, Really

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Is the trick to cutting cravings for sugary foods as simple as getting a good night's sleep? A new small study from the United Kingdom suggests that may be the case.

It's no surprise that tossing and turning all night can cause a person to feel tired, cranky and out of sorts the next day. But missing out on the recommended minimum of 7 hours of nightly shut-eye is also linked to various health conditions, such as obesity and cardiometabolic diseases, which include diabetes, heart disease and stroke, according to the study, published today (Jan. 9) in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Earlier research has shown that more than one-third of U.S. adults get 6 hours or less of sleep each night — less than the recommended 7 to 9 hours, according to the study. With that in mind, the researchers chose to examine whether a sleep consultation could help adults get more shut-eye and how doing so might affect their daily nutrient intake. [The Science of Hunger: How to Control It and Fight Cravings]

In the study, the researchers recruited 21 individuals to participate in a 45-minute sleep consultation designed to extend their sleep time by up to 1.5 hours per night. Another group of 21 participants were also recruited but did not receive intervention in their sleep patterns, therefore serving as the control group, according to the study.

All of the participants were asked to record their sleep and dietary patterns for seven days. During this time, the participants also wore motion sensors on their wrists that measured the exact amount of sleep they got each night, as well as the amount of time they spent in bed before they actually fell asleep.

The results showed that the participants who increased the amount of sleep they got each night reduced their added sugar intake by as much as 10 grams the next day compared with the amount of sugar they consumed at the beginning of the study. These participants also had a lower daily carbohydrate intake than the group that did not extend their sleep patterns, the study found.

"The fact that extending sleep led to a reduction in intake of [added] 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," senior study author Wendy Hall, a senior lecturer in the Department of Diabetes and Nutritional Sciences at King's College London, said in the statement.

The group that got more sleep received a list with suggestions for how to help them get a better night's sleep — 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 suited to their lifestyle.

"Sleep duration and quality is an area of increasing public health concern and has been linked as a risk factor for various conditions," lead researcher Haya Al Khatib, a professor from in the Department of Nutritional sciences at King's College London, said in the statement. "We have shown that sleep habits can be changed with relative ease in healthy adults using a personalized approach."

Overall, the results of the study showed that 86 percent of the participants who received sleep advice increased their total time spent in bed, and 50 percent of the participants extended their sleep duration by roughly 52 to 90 minutes each night, compared with the control group. What's more, three participants in the sleep-extension group achieved a weekly average within the recommended 7 to 9 hours, the researchers said.

However, the researchers noted one caveat to their findings: The data suggested that the extended amount of sleep may have been of lesser quality than the sleep of the participants in the control group. This is likely because any new routine requires an adjustment period, the researchers said.

"Our results also suggest that increasing time in bed for an hour or so longer may lead to healthier food choices," Al Khatib said in the statement. "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 cardiovascular disease."

Originally published on Live Science. Contributor