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Sleeping well helps people achieve exercise and diet goals

People who get regular, uninterrupted sleep do a better job sticking to their exercise and diet plans while trying to lose weight, according to new research.

A presentation, given at an event held last month (March 2023) and organised by the American Heart Association, charted the findings of a study in which researchers examined whether good sleep health was related to how well people adhered to the various lifestyle modifications prescribed in a year-long weight-loss programme.

The weight-loss programme included 125 adults with an average age of 50 years (91 per cent female, 81 per cent white) who met the criteria for overweight or obesity (body mass index of 27-44). None of the subjects had medical conditions that required medical supervision of their diet or physical activity.

Researchers measured sleep habits at three points – the beginning of the programme, at six months and at 12 months. The measures were used to score each participant as "good" or "poor" on six measures of sleep: regularity; satisfaction; alertness; timing; efficiency; and duration.

Meanwhile, adherence to the weight loss programme was measured too, by recording their daily calorie intake and how many group intervention sessions they attended, as well as charting the changes in moderate or vigorous physical activity.

The researchers found that better sleep health was associated with higher rates of attendance at group interval sessions, adherence to caloric intake goals and improvement in time spent performing moderate to vigorous physical activity.

Those who had better sleep patterns attended 79 per cent of group sessions in the first six months and 62 per cent of group sessions in the second six months. They also met their daily caloric intake goals on 36 per cent of days in the first six months and 21 per cent in the second six months.

When it came to exercise, participants increased their total daily time spent in moderate-vigorous activity by 8.7 minutes in the first six months.

The figures were above those recorded by subjects with "poor" sleep patterns.

The report was presented by Christopher Kline, an associate professor in the Department of Health and human development at the University of Pittsburgh.

“We had hypothesised 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," he said.

“Although we didn't intervene in sleep health in this study, these results suggest that optimising sleep may lead to better lifestyle modification adherence.

“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 behaviour that helps people stick with their physical activity and dietary modification goals.”

The report was presented at the American Heart Association's Epidemiology, Prevention, Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions 2023, held in Boston.


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