Sleep: The Most Underrated Healthy Habit

One of the best feelings is when you get a good night’s sleep and feel refreshed to take on the day. Unfortunately, many of us (especially us graduate students) stay up too late and wake up too early, which leads to not enough sleep and/or poor sleep quality. However, getting enough sleep may be an important health habit to prioritize since research has suggested there is a link between sleep and nutrition.

Recently, a study that found a negative correlation between sleep and sugar consumption has been getting a lot of media attention. In this study, researchers from King’s College London recruited 42 healthy participants who reported frequently sleeping less than 7 hours of sleep per night. At baseline, participants were given a wrist actigraph to objectively measure sleep and were asked to record their sleep and wake times in 7-day sleep diaries, along with their food intake.

After baseline assessments, participants were randomly assigned with stratification to the sleep extension group (n = 21) or the control group (n = 21). Participants in the sleep extension group were given a personalized sleep consultation session with the purpose of encouraging participants to increase time in bed by about 1-1.5 hours each night. The control maintained their usual habits.

After one month, researchers found that the sleep extension group increased their time in bed by 55 minutes, sleep period by 47 minutes, and sleep duration by 21 minutes, on average. These increases led the sleep extension group to meet a weekly average sleep duration of the recommended 7-9 hours. These increases in sleep were not observed in the control group. However, participants in the sleep extension group reported a decline in sleep quality. The researchers speculated this might have been due to the adjustment period of spending more time in bed. Participants in the sleep extension group also self-reported lower sugar consumption, which was significantly different from the control group. There was a trend towards a decrease in carbohydrate and fat intake in the sleep extension group as compared to the control group, but this was not significantly different. The researchers found no difference in cardiometabolic risk factors or appetite hormones between the groups from pre- to post-.

These results demonstrate that sleeping longer could be associated with consuming less sugar. However, this study had several limitations, such as using a small sample of predominantly white females and relying on self-reported food records. More research needs to be done in this area using larger randomized controlled trials over a longer duration. For now, the current sleep recommendations are to aim for 7-9 hours of sleep a night.

 

Reference:

  1. Al-Khatib HK, Hall WL, Creedon A, et al. Sleep extension is a feasible lifestyle intervention in free-living adults who are habitually short sleepers: a potential strategy for decreasing intake of free sugars? A randomized controlled pilot study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2018;0:1–11. doi:1093/ajcn/nqx030
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