Sleep experts often recommend tucking in and waking up at the same time every day to take advantage of more rejuvenating snooze. However, realistically there will be times in life where sleep loss simply can’t be helped.
For those periods, the researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania found that eating less at night could help counteract two effects of sleep deprivation—poor concentration and alertness.
44 adults between the ages of 21 to 50 were included in the research, as they were provided unlimited access to food and drinks during the day, and experienced only 4 hours of sleep each night for three consecutive nights.
On the fourth night, 24 of the study participants were only allowed to consume water from 10 pm, until their bedtime at 4 am, while the rest of the participants continued to get the same amount of sleep with all the food and drinks they desired.
Additionally, senior study author Dr. David F. Dinges and his team had the participants complete a variety of tests to measure their cognitive skills, working memory, stress level, mood and sleepiness at 2 am.
The results were also presented at SLEEP 2015, and showed that better reaction times and attention lapses were found among those who fasted, compared to those who engaged in late-night eating. The participants who ate at night also produced significantly slower scores overall.
“Adults consume approximately 500 additional calories during late-night hours when they are sleep restricted,” explained Dr. Dinges. “Our research found that refraining from late-night calories helps prevent some of the decline those individuals may otherwise experience in neurobehavioral performance during sleep restriction.”
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