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Can a good night’s sleep make it easier to stick to a diet?

Researchers looked at whether good sleep health was related to how well people adhered to the various lifestyle changes.

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(Photo by Andrea Piacquadio via Pexels)

By Stephen Beech via SWNS

A good night’s sleep makes it easier to stick to exercise and diet goals, according to a new study.

Researchers found that people who reported getting regular, uninterrupted sleep did a better job of following their exercise and diet plans while trying to lose weight.

Dieters who had higher scores for sleep health - based on regularity, satisfaction, alertness, timing, efficiency and duration — during a 12-month weight loss program were more likely to follow the caloric intake and exercise components compared to those who scored lower.

Study leader Dr. Christopher Kline said: “Focusing on obtaining good sleep - seven to nine hours at night with a regular wake time along with waking refreshed and being alert throughout the day - may be an important behavior that helps people stick with their physical activity and dietary modification goals.

“A previous study of ours reported that better sleep health was associated with a significantly greater loss of body weight and fat among participants in a year-long, behavioral weight loss program.”

The American research team looked at whether good sleep health was related to how well people adhered to the various lifestyle changes prescribed in a 12-month weight loss program.

The program included 125 adults with an average age of 50, most of whom were women, who met the criteria for overweight or obesity without any medical conditions requiring supervision of their diet or physical activity.

Sleep habits were measured at the beginning of the program, at six months and at 12 months, through patient questionnaires, a sleep diary and seven-day readings from a wrist-worn device that recorded sleep, waking activity and rest.

A composite sleep health score of zero to six was calculated for each participant, with one point for each “good” measure of sleep health.

The findings showed that participants attended 79 percent of group sessions in the first six months and 62 percent in the second six months.

They met their daily caloric intake goals on 36 percent of days in the first six months and 21 percent in the second six months.

The participants increased their total daily time spent in moderate to vigorous activity by 8.7 minutes in the first six months, but their total time spent decreased by 3.7 minutes in the second six months.

Dr. Kline said the decrease in group session attendance, caloric intake and in time spent in moderate-vigorous activity in the second six months was expected.

He said. “As one continues in a long-term behavioral weight loss intervention, it’s normal for the adherence to weight loss behaviors to decrease."

He says that while there was an association between better sleep health scores and an increase in physical activity, it was not strong enough to be "statistically significant," - meaning that researchers cannot rule out that the results were due to chance.

Dr. Kline, an Associate Professor in the department of health and human development at the University of Pittsburgh, said: “We had hypothesized that sleep would be associated with lifestyle modification.

"However, we didn’t expect to see an association between sleep health and all three of our measures of lifestyle modification.

“Although we did not intervene on sleep health in this study, these results suggest that optimizing sleep may lead to better lifestyle modification adherence. ”

He says the sample was also primarily white and female, so it is not clear whether the results are applicable to other groups.

(Photo by Jonathan Borba via Pexels)

Dr. Kline said: “One question of interest for future research is whether we can increase adherence to lifestyle modifications – and, ultimately, increase weight loss – if we improve a person’s sleep health."

He said a second question for the researchers is how such an intervention would be timed to improve sleep.

Dr. Kline added: “It remains unclear whether it would be best to optimize sleep prior to rather than during attempted weight loss.

"In other words, should clinicians tell their patients to focus on getting better and more regular sleep before they begin to attempt weight loss, or should they try to improve their sleep while at the same time modifying their diet and activity levels?”

The findings were presented at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology, Prevention, Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions in Boston, Mass.

Dr. Michael Grandner, co-author of the Association’s Life’s Essential 8 cardiovascular health score, said: “There are over 100 studies linking sleep to weight gain and obesity, but this was a great example showing how sleep isn't just tied to weight itself, it's tied to the things we're doing to help manage our own weight.

"This could be because sleep impacts the things that drive hunger and cravings, your metabolism and your ability to regulate metabolism and the ability to make healthy choices in general."

He added: “Studies like this really go to show that all of these things are connected, and sometimes sleep is the thing that we can start taking control over that can help open doors to other avenues of health.”

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