Could Dieting Help You Sleep Better?

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

A new study has suggested that people who lose weight through dieting have better quality sleep.

The researchers found that weight loss through changes to the diet can improve how well you sleep at any weight.

The findings can be found in the Sleep journal and provide a new insight into the how the fluctuations of weight affect various phases of sleep.

Studies in the past have placed a link between obesity and persistent sleepiness, poor sleep quality and reduced energy. All of these factors can successfully be combated through treatment of weight loss.

Until now, however, scientists haven’t had much information about the association between sleeping abnormalities, excessive weight and poor dietary habits.

As well as impaired cognitive function, poor quality of sleep is also linked to a number of chronic health problems, including hypertension, obesity and depression.

In this latest study, researchers used obese, diet-induced mice to study obesity. 50% of mice were chosen randomly to receive RC (regular chow), whilst the other half were provided with a diet high in fat (these were labelled HFD mice) for eight consecutive weeks.

After the eight weeks, a group of the mice had their diets swapped for seven days. This caused newly fed RC mice to lose weight and newly fed HFD mice to put weight on. The other mice carried on with their allocated diet.

Following week nine, the HFD mice weighed 30% more, slept for more than 1 additional hour per day and experienced an increase in wake fragmentation where they slipped frequently into sleep, compared with the RC mice.

However, the mice that switched diets had a comparable body weight by the ninth week, but their sleep profiles were completely different when they were compared to one another.

Isaac Perron, lead author of the study, is a PhD neuroscience student at the University of Pennsylvania. She said the finding suggest that body weight is not as important a factor as weight changes for regulating sleepiness. He continued to say that the mice that ate an RC diet for one week only displayed the same sleep/wake profiles as the RC mice that consumed that diet for the full nine weeks.

He also said people who are overweight and often feel sleepy might not necessarily have to lose all their excess weight to improve their sleep quality, but instead just starting to lose it might improve wake impairments and sleep abnormalities.

According to Mr Perron, as people lose weight, they can start to feel more motivated to live a healthier lifestyle and more awake in the daytime hours.

Professor Sigrid Veasey, co-author of the study, said that the research has highlighted a totally new sleep and food relationship and that switching to a healthier diet may actually improve sleep and alertness. This important and Professor Veasey feels it is now an interaction to test with humans.