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Could Sleeping Be a New Way To Reduce Caloric Intake? Find Out Here

Expertly reviewed by Dexter Macalintal, MD · Internal or General Medicine

Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated May 14, 2022

Could Sleeping Be a New Way To Reduce Caloric Intake? Find Out Here

We all know how sleep is an integral part of our day-to-day life. Sleep provides us with the restorative energy we need to get through another day of work and play. But did you know that sleeping more could also help you in your goal of reducing caloric intake? Read on to learn how a recent study may change your perspective on weight loss. 

The Fight Against the Obesity Epidemic

Obesity is a serious public health issue that needs to be combatted. According to Dr. Esra Tasali, Director of the UChicago Sleep Center at the University of Chicago Medicine, there is value in understanding the underlying causes of obesity and the ways how to prevent it. 

Dr Tasali shared, “The current obesity epidemic, according to experts, is mostly explained by an increase in caloric intake, rather than lack of exercise,” she said.

Through their thorough review and search, it seems that the obesity epidemic seems to coincide with a societal trend of sleeping less over the last several decades. 

Significant data also shows that there is a link between sleeping less than 7 hours per night on a regular basis and negative health consequences. In particular, researchers also recognize that insufficient sleep duration is a major risk factor for obesity. Moreover, prospective epidemiologic studies found that short sleep durations do also play a role in weight gain.

For this reason, the researchers’ study analyzes how sufficient sleep affects caloric intake, which could save many people in their weight loss journey. 

More About the Study 

Dr. Tasali and her colleagues at UChicago and the University of Wisconsin–Madison learned several things during the course of their study. 

In a randomized clinical trial with 80 adults, they discovered that young, overweight adults who habitually slept fewer than 6.5 hours each night had the capacity to improve their sleep duration by an average of 1.2 hours per night after a personalized sleep hygiene counseling session.

The sleep intervention was designed to increase bedtime duration to 8.5 hours. As a result, those with increased sleep duration reduced their overall caloric intake by around 270 kcal per day. 

If the effects were sustained over a long period of time, this would equate to approximately 12 kg (26 lbs) of weight loss over three years.

“Over the years, we and others have shown that sleep restriction has an effect on appetite regulation that leads to increased food intake, and thus puts you at risk for weight gain over time,” Dr. Tasali said. 

“More recently, the question that everyone was asking was, ‘Well, if this is what happens with sleep loss, can we extend sleep and reverse some of these adverse outcomes?”

Their research not only investigates the effects of sleep deprivation on caloric intake but also in a real-world setting. They look into it with no manipulation or control over participants’ dietary habits. They allowed the participants to:

  • Sleep in their own beds.
  • Track their own sleep with their respective wearable devices.
  • Go about their normal lives with no dietary or exercise restrictions.

On Tracking the Participants’ Caloric Intake

The researchers used the “doubly labeled water” method and changes in energy stores to objectively track caloric intake. In this urine-based test, a person drinks water that has had the hydrogen and oxygen atoms. These atoms have less common, but naturally occurring, stable, and traceable isotopes.

The study’s senior author, Dale A. Schoeller, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Sciences at UW–Madison, pioneered the use of this technique in humans. 

“This is considered the gold standard for objectively measuring daily energy expenditure in a non-laboratory, real-world setting,” Schoeller said.

Furthermore, the intervention’s simplicity was by far the most fascinating part of the study.

“We simply coached each individual on good sleep hygiene, and discussed their own personal sleep environments, providing tailored advice on changes they could make to improve their sleep duration. Importantly, to blind participants to sleep intervention, recruitment materials did not mention sleep intervention, allowing us to capture true habitual sleep patterns at baseline,” Dr. Tasali said. 

After just one counseling session, participants improved their sleep duration by more than an hour per night. Moreover, most participants reduced their calorie intake significantly, with some eating as few as 500 fewer calories per day.

The Impact of the Study in Real-Life Settings

“Many people are working hard to find ways to decrease their caloric intake to lose weight — well, just by sleeping more, you may be able to reduce it substantially,” Dr. Tasali highlighted. 

“In our earlier work, we understood that sleep is important for appetite regulation,” she continued. 

“Now we’ve shown that in real life, without making any other lifestyle changes, you can extend your sleep and eat fewer calories. This could really help people trying to lose weight.”

According to the findings, healthy sleep habits can be a new tool in the fight against the obesity epidemic. However, more research would determine if it can also aid in obesity prevention and weight loss for a long time. There are already several studies discussing how lack of sleep can take an effect on a person’s caloric intake. 

Learn more about Health here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Expertly reviewed by

Dexter Macalintal, MD

Internal or General Medicine

Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated May 14, 2022

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