Longer Sleep Periods May Help Prevent Development of Obesity

An overweight man sleeping
An overweight man sleeping
Short sleep duration is a risk factor for obesity. Researchers investigated if longer sleep periods would help decrease this risk.

Short-term sleep extension intervention significantly reduced  the daily energy intake of overweight adults and created a negative energy balance in those with habitual short sleep, according to a study in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Researchers conducted a randomized clinical trial to determine the effects of sleep extension intervention on objectively assessed energy intake, energy expenditure, and body weight in adults with overweight and habitually shortened sleep duration. The single-center, randomized clinical trial was conducted from November 1, 2014, to October 30, 2020.

Eligible participants were adults aged 21 to 40 years with a body mass index (BMI) of 25.0 to 29.9 and a mean habitual sleep duration of less than 6.5 hours per night.

After a 2-week habitual sleep period, study participants were randomized to either 2-week sleep extension (sleep extension group) or 2-week continued habitual sleep (control group). Wrist actigraphy was used to continuously monitor participants’ sleep-wake patterns at home. The change in energy intake from baseline was the primary outcome.

A total of 80 participants (40 each in the sleep extension group and control group) were included. Their mean (SD) age was 29.8 [5.1] years and 51.3% were male.

Participants in the sleep extension group had a significant increase in mean sleep duration vs the control individuals (1.2 hours; 95% CI, 1.0-1.4 hours; P < .001).

Energy intake was statistically significantly decreased in the sleep extension group vs the control group (−270.4 kcal/d; 95% CI, −393.4 to −147.4 kcal/d; P < .001). Among all participants, sleep duration change inversely correlated with a change in energy intake (r = −0.41; 95% CI, −0.59 to −0.20; P < .001).

The study authors found no statistically significant treatment effect in total energy expenditure or other measures of energy expenditure. The sleep extension group had a statistically significant decrease in weight compared with the control group (−0.87 kg; 95% CI, −1.39 to −0.35 kg; P = .001).

Study limitations include the cohort of adults who were overweight, which may limit the generalizability of the results to more diverse populations. Also, the increase in energy intake and weight from baseline observed in the control group may have contributed to the significant treatment effects. In addition, the study did not provide information on how long healthy sleep habits could be maintained for longer periods and did not assess the underlying biological mechanisms of food frequency and the circadian timing of food intake.

“The findings highlighted the importance of improving and maintaining adequate sleep duration as a public health target for obesity prevention and increasing awareness about the benefits of adequate sleep duration for healthy weight maintenance,” the investigators concluded.


Tasali E, Wroblewski K, Kahn E, Kilkus J, Schoeller DA. Effect of sleep extension on objectively assessed energy intake among adults with overweight in real-life settings: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Intern Med. Published online February 7, 2022. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2021.8098