Introduction: Sleep curtailment is an endemic behavior in modern society. Well-controlled laboratory studies have shown that sleep loss in young adults is associated with increased desire for high-calorie food and obesity risk. However, the relevance of these laboratory findings to real life is uncertain. We conducted a 3 week, within-participant, intervention study to assess the effects of extended bedtimes on sleep duration and food desire under real life conditions in individuals who are at risk for obesity.
Methods: Ten overweight young adults reporting average habitual sleep duration of less than 6.5 h were studied in the home environment. Habitual bedtimes for 1-week (baseline) were followed by bedtimes extended to 8.5 h for 2-weeks (intervention). Participants were unaware of the intervention until after the baseline period. Participants received individualized behavioral counseling on sleep hygiene on the first day of the intervention period. Sleep duration was recorded by wrist actigraphy throughout the study. Participants rated their sleepiness, vigor and desire for various foods using visual analog scales at the end of baseline and intervention periods.
Results: On average, participants obtained 1.6 h more sleep with extended bedtimes (5.6 vs. 7.1; P < 0.001) and reported being less sleepy (P = 0.004) and more vigorous (P = 0.034). Additional sleep was associated with a 14% decrease in overall appetite (P = 0.030) and a 62% decrease in desire for sweet and salty foods (P = 0.017). Desire for fruits, vegetables and protein-rich nutrients was not affected by added sleep.
Conclusions: Sleep duration can be successfully increased in real life settings and obtaining adequate sleep is associated with less desire for high calorie foods in overweight young adults who habitually curtail their sleep.
Keywords: Appetite; Food desire; Obesity; Sleep extension; Sleep hygiene.
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