Sleeping more may be a way of shedding those extra pounds, a new study suggests.
Researchers at the UChicago Sleep Center at University of Chicago Medicine found that adding an hour or so of sleep per night shaved around 270 calories off people’s daily diets – the equivalent of around four Oreo cookies, which could translate to 26 lbs. of weight loss over three years if the effects were maintained over a long term.
In a randomized clinical trial with 80 adults, published February 7 in JAMA Internal Medicine, the researchers found that young, overweight adults who regularly slept fewer than 6.5 hours a night were able to increase their sleep duration by an average of 1.2 hours per night after a personalized sleep hygiene counseling session. The sleep intervention was intended to extend time in bed to 8.5 hours.
“Over the years, we and others have shown that sleep restriction has an effect on appetite regulation that leads to increased food intake, and thus puts you at risk for weight gain over time,” according to Dr. Esra Tasali, one of the lead researchers. “More recently, the question that everyone was asking was, ‘Well, if this is what happens with sleep loss, can we extend sleep and reverse some of these adverse outcomes?”
“Most other studies on this topic in labs are short-lived, for a couple of days, and food intake is measured by how much participants consume from an offered diet,” Tasali said. “In our study, we only manipulated sleep, and had the participants eat whatever they wanted, with no food logging or anything else to track their nutrition by themselves.”
Limiting the use of electronic devices before bedtime appeared as a key intervention, she noted. Ultimately, the research team hopes to look further into the underlying mechanisms that may explain these results, and believes that this work should spur new, larger studies on weight control to determine if extending sleep can support weight-loss programs and help prevent or reverse obesity.
“In our earlier work, we understood that sleep is important for appetite regulation,” said Tasali. “Now we’ve shown that in real life, without making any other lifestyle changes, you can extend your sleep and eat fewer calories. This could really help people trying to lose weight.”