The Weight of Sleep

Getting enough shut-eye appears to promote healthier food choices

The research is pretty clear—people who regularly get enough sleep have healthier body weights than those who skimp on shut-eye. Whether that is because sleep keeps weight in check, people with better body weights sleep more soundly or some other reason is unknown.

Hassan Dashti, N12, N15, may have found a connection between sleeping and the food choices people make that helps explain it.

For a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, he looked at nearly 15,000 people from several countries and compared how much sleep they usually get each night to the fat, protein and carbohydrates in their diets.

He found that younger adults who reported sleeping more tended to eat less saturated fat than their less-rested peers. Older women who slept more reported eating fewer carbohydrates and more polyunsaturated fat.

“Our results suggest that the connection between sleep and weight may be partly due to food choices,” Dashti said. “The results consistently suggest that better-rested adults tend to have healthier intakes, particularly related to fat intake, than those sleeping fewer hours.”

Working in the Nutrition and Genomics Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts, Dashti also looked at mutations in a gene called CLOCK (Circadian Locomotor Output Cycles Kaput), which affects circadian rhythms, helps control appetite and has been associated with body weight.

While the results weren’t statistically significant, he did find some evidence suggesting that for people with a certain CLOCK mutation, getting regular sleep could ameliorate a genetic predisposition to obesity.

“Achieving sufficient sleep may improve their diets, and by doing so, potentially reduce their risk of becoming obese,” Dashti said.

Julie Flaherty can be reached at


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