The study found that people who are not sleep deprived consume less sugar compared to those of us yawning throughout the day.
In light of the results, the researchers said spending more time under the duvet could help the nation cut its sugar intake and improve our overall health.
More sleep and better health? You don’t need to tell us twice.
The researchers, from King’s College London, said previous figures suggest more than a third of adults in the UK are not getting enough sleep. They aimed to determine what impact rectifying this matter could have.
The study involved a group of 42 participants who reported usually getting less than seven hours of sleep per night.
Half of the group (21 participants) received expert tips via a personal consultation on how to improve the amount of sleep they achieve each night. This included advice such as avoiding caffeine before bed time, establishing a relaxing routine and not going to bed too full or hungry, tailored to their personal lifestyle.
The remaining 21 participants did not receive a consultation and continued with their usual routine.
For seven days following the consultation, participants kept sleep and food diaries and wore a wrist motion sensor, which measured exactly how long they were asleep for, as well as time spent in bed before falling asleep.
The majority (86%) 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).
The researchers found extending sleep resulted in a 10-gram reduction in reported intake of free sugars - the sugars added to foods by manufacturers or in cooking at home, as well as sugars in honey, syrups and fruit juice - compared to the amount consumed at the start of the trial.
The researchers also noticed trends for reduced intake of total carbohydrates reported by the group who had extended sleep time. There were no significant diet differences shown in the group who did not change their sleeping habits during the study.
Commenting on the findings, the principal investigator, Dr Wendy Hall, from the Department of Nutritional Sciences, said: “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.”
The data also suggested, however, that this extended sleep may have been of lesser quality than the control group and researchers believe that a period of adjustment to any new routine may be required.
Lead researcher, Haya Al Khatib, added: “Sleep duration and quality is an area of increasing public health concern and has been linked as a risk factor for various conditions. We have shown that sleep habits can be changed with relative ease in healthy adults using a personalised approach.
“Our results also suggest that increasing time in bed for an hour or so longer may lead to healthier food choices. This further strengthens the link between short sleep and poorer quality diets that has already been observed by previous studies.
“We hope to investigate this finding further with longer-term studies examining nutrient intake and continued adherence to sleep extension behaviours in more detail, especially in populations at risk of obesity or cardiovascular disease.”
The study is published in full in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.