Spending an extra hour in bed each night may help reduce the intake of sugary foods and lead to a healthier diet, according to a study.Sleep is a modifiable risk factor for various conditions including obesity and cardio-metabolic disease, researchers said.

The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, looked at the impact of increasing sleep hours on nutrient intake.

The researchers from King's College London in the UK found that extending sleep patterns resulted in a 10-gram reduction in reported intake of free sugars compared to baseline levels.

They also noticed trends for reduced intake of total carbohydrates reported by the sleep extension group."The fact that extending sleep led to a reduction in intake of free sugars suggests that a simple change in lifestyle may really help people to consume healthier diets," said Wendy Hall from King's College London.

The 21 participants allocated to the sleep extension group undertook a 45-minute sleep consultation which aimed to extend their time in bed by up to 1.5 hours per night.

A further 21 control group participants received no intervention in their sleep patterns.

Each participant in the sleep extension group received a list with a minimum of four appropriate sleep hygiene behaviours that were personalised to their lifestyle (such as avoiding caffeine before bedtime, establishing a relaxing routine and not going to bed too full or hungry) and a recommended bedtime.

For seven days following the consultation, participants kept sleep and estimated food diaries and a wrist-worn motion sensor measured exactly how long participants were asleep for, as well as time spent in bed before falling asleep.

As many as 86 per cent of those who received sleep advice increased time spent in bed and half increased their sleep duration (ranging from 52 minutes to nearly 90 minutes).

Three participants achieved a weekly average within the recommended seven to nine hours. There were no significant differences shown in the control group."Our results also suggest that increasing time in bed for an hour or so longer may lead to healthier food choices," said Haya Al Khatib from King's College London.

"This further strengthens the link between short sleep and poorer quality diets that has already been observed by previous studies," Khatib said.

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