ISLAMABAD: It's January. Many of us have noticed that our pants are slightly tighter than they were last year. How might we shift that extra weight without suffering the gym? Try an extra hour in bed, a new study suggests.

 Could we lose weight just by getting more sleep?

Scientists based at King's College London in the United Kingdom have recently conducted a pilot study investigating sleep and diet. Their findings might be good news for those of us who feel tired and chubby at the moment.

Sleep is a strange beast. Most of us know that we feel awful if we don't get enough, yet hardly any of us manage the recommended 7-ish hours that we need.

In actual fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 3 Americans don't get the right amount of shut-eye.

This is quite a worrying statistic, as sleep — or a lack thereof — is now considered to be a risk factor for obesity and cardiometabolic conditions, such as impaired glucose tolerance and high blood pressure.

If lack of sleep can have such a major impact, it seems sensible to search for ways of extending sleep in individuals who might be at risk.

Extending sleep
Dr. Wendy Hall, from the Department of Nutritional Sciences at King's College London, and team recently completed a pilot study in which they tested whether or not a simple intervention could increase sleep duration in a group of adults.

Their results are published today in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

In all, 21 healthy short-sleepers undertook a 45-minute sleep consultation. During this session, the sleep extension group were given at least four helpful hints to lengthen their sleep time, including information about reducing caffeine intake — having a coffee just before bedtime makes it harder to drop off (who knew?) — and setting up relaxing routines, such as a warm bath and some Kenny G.

For the next 7 days, the participants kept sleep diaries. They also wore a motion sensor that could detect exactly how long participants slept, and how long they spent in bed before falling asleep.

Alongside the researchers' efforts to extend sleep duration, they also monitored nutritional intake throughout the study period.

Overall, 86 percent of the sleep extension group increased their time spent in bed, and around half increased their sleep duration (by 52–90 minutes). Three members of the group hit the weekly recommended average of 7–9 hours of sleep per night.

However, the researchers believe that the extra sleep that the participants got might not have been of particularly great quality. They conclude that it might take a little more time to get into a new sleep routine; Kenny G can only do so much.