Sleeping longer – perhaps a strategy to decrease sugar intake?

Do you sometimes feel like you crave more sweet food when you don’t get enough sleep?

Scientists at King’s College London did a short experiment to try test this theory, and they have found that maybe you’re not alone.

They studied 42 healthy adults who are habitually short sleepers (<7h sleep/night). Half of the participants (21 adults) received behavioural consultation to help them sleep longer, while the rest did not. During the behavioural consultation, the patients were given “sleep hygiene” strategies, which include avoiding caffeine, how to sleep at more regular times, etc. The group that received counselling slept for an average of 21 minutes longer/night compared to the control group. The participants were followed for 4 weeks and asked to keep a food diary.

The participants who received sleep counselling reported that they reduced their intake of free sugars by an average of 9.6g/day (about 2 teaspoons).

Limitations of the study:

Although this is an interesting observation, it is worth noting here that a more objective study still needs to be done in the future to show this more conclusively. For example, in this study, the measurement of dietary intake was done through self-reported food diaries. Given that the participants were not blinded (i.e. they know whether or not they received the sleep counselling)- there’s a lot of room for bias.

It was also a very short study. The participants were only followed for 4 weeks; which one could argue is really not that much time to truly adapt a new sleeping habit, let alone see significant changes in body weight or markers of cardiometabolic risks. A study to see the long-term effects of extending sleep is still yet to be conducted.

Although a more conclusive study to determine specifically whether lack of sleep really does make you crave more sugar, there have been multiple studies in the past linking lack of sleep with various diseases like diabetescancer, Alzheimer’s and a variety of others. So make sure you always try get enough sleep!

About Rina Soetanto

Rina Soetanto is currently doing her PhD in molecular biology. She also has an extensive background in pharmacology and pre-clinical cancer research, as well as an undergraduate science degree from the Australian National University with a double major in neuroscience and immunology.

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