Adults who increased the amount of sleep they had reported consuming less sugary foods and making better nutritional choices, according to the King’s College London (KCL) study.
Researchers said the findings strengthened the link between lack of sleep and a poor quality diet.
The study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, sought to increase sleep in 21 adults getting less than the recommended minimum of seven hours every night.
The group undertook a sleep consultation aiming to extend their time in bed by 1.5 hours.
They were told to avoid caffeine before sleeping, establish a relaxing routine and try not to go to bed too full or hungry.
Of those who received advice, 86 per cent spent more time in bed and around half increased their sleep duration.
Researchers found extending sleep patterns resulted in a 10g reduction in intake of free sugars compared to baseline levels.
They also noticed trends for reduced intake of carbohydrates among those getting more sleep.
Those in a control group of 21 participants, who received no advice, reported no significant differences.
Principal investigator Dr Wendy Hall, from KCL’s department of nutritional sciences, said: “The fact that extending sleep led to a reduction in intake of free sugars, by which we mean the sugars that are added to foods by manufacturers or in cooking at home as well as sugars in honey, syrups and fruit juice, suggests that a simple change in lifestyle may really help people to consume healthier diets.“
Lead researcher Haya Al Khatib said: “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.“