Food, Health

Eating Less Than 270 Daily Calories Can Be Possible With An Hour’s Worth Of Extra Sleep

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When it comes to weight loss, weight maintenance, and metabolic health, physicians who specialize in sleep medicine say sleep needs to be part of the equation. When it comes to losing weight and reaching your goal, part of the secret to your success may be a good night’s rest.

Researchers looked into the idea of extra sleep and their findings suggest that an extra hour of sleep every night could help sleep-deprived people, especially those who are trying to manage their weight to eat 270 fewer calories without even making so much of an effort. In order to get the information needed, the participants in this new study were not asked to restrict their caloric intake. They weren’t even aware that this was even being measured for the trial. Analysis was done through urine samples, and they only assumed that these were collected to measure other things.

The numbers may not mean much, but that translates to almost nine pounds of weight loss in a little more than a year. The findings are stated by the researchers who conducted the study, and the details of which have been published last February 7 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

“A decrease of 270 calories a day is tremendous. This is clinically important, and it’s also highly significant for people on weight loss programs,” said Esra Tasali, MD, study’s lead author and an associate professor of medicine and the director of the Sleep Research Center at the University of Chicago.

They were not the first researchers to conduct a study that connected the findings to eating patterns. While there’s growing evidence that points to the same conclusions as this study, there’s also still so much more to learn and discuss. Yes, adequate sleep helps people stick to a healthier diet especially when it comes to quantity and quality of calories consumed, but sleep has yet to become a part of weight loss conversations. Doctors need to talk about this more with their patients.

The good news is that they have also seen changes. James Rowley, MD, a professor of critical care and sleep medicine at Wayne State University in Detroit, seems to think so. “For many years, sleep just was not considered part of the ‘equation’ so to speak,” he said. People are beginning to be educated and now, they are able to recognize how sleep needs to be considered as an vital component of health, be it cardiovascular, metabolic, and exercise and eating. He explained, “It’s clear that adequate sleep is important for overall health.”

As a health professional, he’s also started to recommend more sleep to aid in weight loss and maintenance to his patients. He believes that this new research is an crucial piece of the puzzle because it reinforces the effect improved sleep quantity can have on the person’s daily calorie intake.


A Single Sleep Counseling Intervention Aided in Extending People’s Sleep

For this specific study, Dr. Tasali was able to commission 80 adults who were classified as overweight. This meant that they had a body mass index between 25 and 29.9. The group had an average age of about 30 years old and they all reported they regularly slept fewer than 6.5 hours each night.

They took two weeks to monitor the participants’ sleep habits at home. They were asked to wear wrist sensors. Tasali and her team divided the participants into two groups: a control arm that continued with their regular sleep routine, and a study arm, that received a single one-on-one sleep counseling intervention. It was in the session that Tasali helped the study participants plan out a personalized sleep plan so that they get in an extra hour of sleep every night.

The two groups then slept at home for another two weeks with wrist actigraphs attached to them. The goal was to record their sleeping patterns. It was discovered that seventy percent of those who received sleep counseling actually held full-time or part-time jobs. For many of them, changing the sleep habits meant getting into bed earlier. They were asked to keep their phones, laptops, and other electronic devices away before they head to bed. This was another big factor that helped them get in that extra hour of sleep.

The was proof that those who got the counseling showed an improvement that they were able to get an extra one hour and 12 minutes more each night. They also ate less than 270 calories each day on average. Some participants even ate less and consumed less than 500 calories. The calorie intake was measured via urine samples using the doubly labeled water method, which is the gold-standard method when it comes to the measurement of energy expenditure.

As for the participants part of the control group, their caloric intake increased on average by about 115 calories each day.  When computed, this was roughly 270 to 300 calories, which is equivalent to a McDonald’s cheeseburger or a little less than the calories found when consuming four large eggs. It must be known that on onset, the participants weren’t trying to actively lose weight. On average, they consumed 2,655 calories each day. The team didn’t want to influence their decisions during the study. So, the participants were told that the research was simply about collecting information on sleep habits and metabolism.


Researchers Believe and Say Longer Studies Are Needed

Tasali says the findings are important for a few reasons. First of all, the research was done in a real-world setting and not in a formal sleep lab. This meant that participants were able to maintain their usual eating habits and sleeping in their own familiar beds. The results they got were also objective. This meant that this was without self-reporting, Data came from the wrist sensors that recorded sleep duration. Then, there were also the urine-based tests that measured their intake of calories.

As objective as the study may have been, it also came with its set of caveats. To begin with, they only monitored the participants for two weeks. People with sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, and those who work at night or follow a rotating shift for work, weren’t included. They also don’t know if those who are already getting enough sleep would benefit as much.

“We don’t know to what extent the habits would have been continued beyond two weeks. Longer-term studies are needed, and with more diverse populations, but it’s our general hypothesis that this intervention would apply to populations with various baseline weights and sleep duration,” Tasali said.


The New Findings Build on Earlier Evidence that Linked Sleep With Eating Patterns

The extra sleep was more than having one less hour to snack. This was stated by Marie Pierre St-Onge, PhD, an associate professor of nutritional medicine and the director of the Sleep Center of Excellence at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City. She claimed that the study adds to a growing body of previous research that have suggested how sleep played a big part when it came to appetite, satiety, and hunger cues.

Dr. St-Onge said that her previous research is one of the largest studies on sleep restriction. They discovered that those running on just four hours of sleep per night also tend to eat more during the day after. She said that they consumed as much as 300 calories.

That result they got is similar to the findings in the study from Tasali’s group. St-Onge says, “It’s possible that these same mechanisms are just going in reverse with sleep extension.” There are also other pieces of evidence that suggests how sleep deprivation increases levels of ghrelin. This is otherwise named the “hunger hormone” because when it’s triggered, the person increases food intake. There are also other research that showed how lack of sleep lowered the levels of leptin, a hunger-suppressing hormone found in the body as well. Previous research Tasali worked on which was published in the journal Obesity in January 2016 also discovered that sleep-deprived people had higher levels of ghrelin in their system.

Those who have been deprived of the hours of sleep needed craved for salty, sweet, fat-dense food more, St-Onge says. Findings of previous studies saw how the reward centers found in the brain lit up in response to junk food.  Together, this previous research and this new study boost the idea that sleeping well should be an important of a weight loss or maintenance plan.

“If you’re trying to lose weight, it would be a bad idea to be sleep deprived,” St-Onge said. “You need to make sure you’re well rested so you can make good decisions in all aspects of your life, including what kinds of food you eat.”

Tasali said she and her team want to get the important message out and let people know how sleep is vital to health. “We believe — hopefully — our study could be a game changer for our battle with the obesity epidemic in our society. It’s really about using sufficient sleep as a simple tool that can be really successful,” Tasali shared.