A new study by sleep experts at Loughborough University is examining how sleep and weight management are related.
In a first-of-its-kind, the experimental research will look at the link between sleep duration and appetite – and whether one extra hour could lead to better weight management.
Dr Iuliana Hartescu, who is overseeing the project, titled Sleep extension for metabolic health (Sleep to Slim), said: “It is an experimental study, where we manipulate sleep duration by increasing it through a behavioral intervention and then examining the effects on various metabolic biomarkers.
“We are particularly interested in glucose and insulin regulation, and appetite hormones.”
Large population studies have identified that about 25% of the population are sleeping less than the recommended 7 hours per night.
There are several reasons for this, explained Dr Hartescu, some of which are linked to lifestyle.
“Sleep is perceived as an optional flexible time which can be curtailed in favor of gym, work, or young children,” she said.
“Current evidence indicates that short sleep duration for six hours or less per night – and also disrupted sleep, such as shift workers – can affect metabolism by disrupting glucose regulation, and disrupting appetite hormones.
“These physiological mechanisms could encourage behavior which leads to weight gain – caused by eating more or eating at inappropriate times, for example.
“In addition, being fatigued and sleepy from short sleep leads to decreased physical activity during the day, which can further exacerbate weight gain.”
The study, which began in the summer of 2017, is currently recruiting men aged between 20 and 50-years-old who regularly get less than six hours sleep a night.
“This is a randomised controlled trial. We are recruiting men,” said Dr Hartescu. “Short sleepers.
“Those who habitually achieve six hours or less per night, and who have at least two significant diabetes risk factors, such as being overweight or obese, hypertensive, or who have parental history of diabetes.”
The participants will have to adapt their sleep patterns for six weeks, based on a number of parameters set by the researchers.
Half will have their sleep increased by one hour-per-night, bringing them in line with what is currently considered optimal sleep duration – about seven to nine hours.
“The central idea is that through this relatively simple lifestyle change – increasing your sleep by one hour, could improve fatigue and sleepiness, and help people become more active in the day.
“We will also look at whether it helps regulate appetite hormones and glucose, and whether people have less time at bedtime to snack inappropriately, therefore aiding weight control, or weight loss.”