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Researchers Just Learned More About The Link Between Sleep & Caloric Intake

February 11, 2022

Getting enough sleep is essential for maintaining energy levels throughout the day, helping our cells function optimally, and so much more. And according to a new study on sleep and caloric intake, published in JAMA Internal Medicine1, getting enough sleep can also help us keep up with healthy eating habits. Here's what the research found.

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Looking at the connection between sleep and caloric intake.

For this four-week randomized clinical trial, a team of researchers analyzed the sleeping and dietary patterns of 80 adults who regularly slept 6.5 hours or less per night (i.e., considered to be "short", inadequate amounts of sleep). After a two-week baseline period, half of the group was coached through two weeks of personalized sleep hygiene counseling with the goal of helping them extend their daily snooze to at least 8.5 hours. Meanwhile, the other half of the group continued with their normal sleep routines.

As lead author of the study Esra Tasali, M.D., explained in a news release, previous research has already shown that not getting enough sleep can lead to overeating and, subsequently, weight gain. So the question here, he says, was, "If this is what happens with sleep loss, can we extend sleep and reverse some of these adverse outcomes?"

It's important to note that aside from the sleep hygiene counseling, the participants were instructed to go about their business as usual (i.e., no suggested dietary changes).

What researchers found.

Based on the findings, it would seem the team's hypothesis proved true. Participants who increased their sleep duration by at least an hour saw a reduction in caloric intake by an average of 270 calories per day.

This is notable, given the only intervention was the sleep hygiene counseling. As Tasali notes, "This was not a weight-loss study but even within just two weeks, we have quantified evidence showing a decrease in caloric intake and a negative energy balance (caloric intake is less than calories burned)."

He adds that if these changes were to be maintained, people would likely notice "clinically important weight loss" over time.

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The takeaway.

Not getting enough sleep has previously been connected to overeating, and now it would appear the inverse can be true too: Once someone who is not getting enough sleep significantly increases their snooze time, they may find it easier to keep up with a healthy caloric intake. Add that to the ever-growing list of reasons to prioritize good sleep hygiene night after night!