“The current obesity epidemic, according to experts, is largely explained by increased calorie intake, rather than by inactivity,” she said.
Now, a new study into how getting enough sleep affects calorie intake in real-life settings could change the way we think about weight loss.
In a randomized clinical trial with 80 adults, published in JAMA lingerie, Tasali and her colleagues at UChi Chicago and the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that young, overweight adults who often sleep less than 6.5 hours a night can increase their sleep time on average. 1.2 hours per night after a personalized sleep hygiene consultation. .
The sleep intervention that extended time in bed by 8.5 hours – and increased sleep time compared to controls also reduced the participants’ overall calorie intake by an average of 270 kcal (calories) per day. day.
“Over the years, we and others have shown that sleep restriction has an appetite-regulating effect, leading to increased food intake and therefore putting you at risk for weight gain over time,” says Tasali. “. “Recently, the question people have been asking is, ‘Well, if this is what happens with insomnia, can we prolong sleep and reverse some of these adverse outcomes?”
The new study not only examined the effects of prolonged sleep on calorie intake, but importantly, it performed in a real-world setting, with no manipulation or control over the participants’ dietary habits. . The participants slept in their own beds, tracked their sleep with wearable devices, and otherwise followed their normal lifestyles without any dietary instructions. or exercise.
“Most other studies on this topic in the laboratory have been short-lived, over a few days, and food intake was measured by how much participants consumed,” Tasali said. A diet is provided. “In our study, we just controlled for sleep and let the participants eat whatever they wanted, no food diary or anything else to self-monitor their nutrition. “
Instead, to objectively track the calories of the participants, the investigators relied on the “dual-labelled water” method and variation in energy stores. This urine-based test involves a person drinking water in which both the hydrogen and oxygen atoms have been replaced by less common, but naturally occurring, and easily tracked stable isotopes.
The use of this technique in humans was pioneered by study senior author Dale A. Schoeller, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Sciences at UW-Madison. “This is considered the gold standard for objectively measuring daily energy consumption in real-world, non-laboratory settings, and it has changed the way obesity is studied in humans,” Schoeller said.
Overall, people who increased sleep time were able to reduce their calorie intake by an average of 270 kcal per day – equivalent to about 12 kg, or 26 lbs., weight loss over three years if the effects were sustained over the long term. .
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the study was the simplicity of the intervention. “We found that after just one sleep counseling session, participants were able to change their bedtime habits enough to lead to an increase in sleep duration,” says Tasali.
“We simply educate individuals on good sleep hygiene and discuss their individual sleep environment, offering tailored advice on changes they can make to improve their sleep quality. their sleep intake. Importantly, for the blind people participating in the sleep intervention, it allowed us to capture real sleep habits from the start.”
Although the study did not systematically evaluate factors that might influence sleep behavior, “limiting electronic device use before bedtime appears to be an important intervention.” important,” said Tasali.
After just a single counseling session, the participants increased their average sleep time by more than an hour a night. Although prescribed no other lifestyle changes, most participants significantly reduced the amount they ate, with some participants eating 500 fewer calories per day.
Subjects only participated in the study for a total of four weeks, with two weeks to gather baseline information about sleep and calorie intake, followed by two weeks to monitor the effects of the sleep intervention. sleep.
“This is not a weight loss study,” says Tasali. “But even within just two weeks, we had quantitative evidence that calorie intake decreased and the energy balance was negative – calories taken in were less than calories burned. If sleep habits are healthy. maintained over a longer period of time, which leads to clinically important weight loss Over time, many people are working hard to find ways to reduce their calorie intake to lose weight – well, just get more sleep, you can significantly reduce it.”
Ultimately, Tasali and her team hope to look at the underlying mechanisms that may explain these results, and believe this work will spur new, larger studies of weight control to determine See if prolonged sleep can support weight loss programs and help prevent or reverse obesity.
“In our previous work, we understood that sleep is important for appetite regulation,” says Tasali. “We have now demonstrated that in real life, without making any other lifestyle changes, you can prolong sleep and eat fewer calories. This can really help people trying to lose weight.”
The study, “Effect of sleep prolongation on objectively assessed energy expenditure in overweight adults in a real-life setting,” was supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Center for Diabetes Research and Training at UChi Chicago (R01DK100426, CTSA-UL1 TR0002389, and ULTR002389). Other authors include Kristen Wroblewski, Eva Kahn, and Jennifer Kilkus of UChi Chicago and Dale A. Schoeller of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.