A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that if you can get a little more sleep each night, you may end up eating less junk food.
Researchers in the United Kingdom worked with a group of 42 men and women who typically slept for less than the recommended seven hours a night. Half of the participants received a 45-minute sleep consultation, which sought to increase their sleep time by up to 1.5 hours per night. The consultation included a list of sleep hygiene behaviors personalized to each participant’s lifestyle. Suggestions included no caffeine in the evening, establishing a relaxing routine before bedtime, not going to bed too full or too hungry, and establishing a bedtime that would encourage more sleep. The other 21 people in the study received no intervention. All the participants wore wrist monitors that measured their sleep and how long they were in bed before falling asleep. They also kept detailed food diaries.
By the end of the first week, 86 percent of those who received sleep advice increased their time in bed and half bumped up their time spent asleep by 52 to almost 90 minutes. A majority of participants in the sleep advice group also consumed less added sugar and total carbohydrates.
Previous research has shown that people who do not get enough sleep are more likely to gain weight. One explanation is that poor sleep elevates levels of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates feelings of hunger. Researchers suggest that improving your sleep can be a simple step to improve your health in many ways, including eating fewer carbs and added sugars.
This article originally appeared in Mind, Mood & Memory, a publication of the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, dedicated to maintaining mental fitness for middle age and beyond.