Eyes Wide Shut? The Diet-Sleep Quality Connection

sleeping at McDonaldsNow that life has settled down after all the holiday whirl, you’re still not sleeping. You get up a couple times a night or lie awake between rounds of wrestling your pillow into submission. By the time you actually get up, you don’t feel rested or refreshed.

So in the morning, you shoot down chasers of coffee with your egg, muffin, bacon and cheese sandwich. Or maybe some overly caffeinated and sugary “energy” drink or soda, gets you groovin’ on your day.

Whatever you grab, you know your crutch is not supporting health. It’s just getting you through.

The Trouble With Getting Sleepy

If that sounds like you, if you’ve tried all the tricks to get more – and better – sleep, yet still can’t pin that pillow down, you might want to take a closer look at your diet.

According to new research published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine, diet quality may influence sleep quality.

Results show that greater fiber intake predicted more time spent in the stage of deep, slow wave sleep. In contrast, a higher percentage of energy from saturated fat predicted less slow wave sleep. Greater sugar intake also was associated with more arousals from sleep.

What was really amazing is that dietary changes didn’t take long to make an impact. According to the study’s lead author, Dr. Marie-Pierre St-Onge of Columbia University, “It was most surprising that a single day of greater fat intake and lower fiber could influence sleep parameters”—negatively [emphasis added].

A better diet – higher in fiber and protein, lower in sugar and saturated fats – not only improved participants’ sleep quality. It also helped them get to sleep faster.

“This study emphasizes the fact that diet and sleep are interwoven in the fabric of a healthy lifestyle,” said American Academy of Sleep Medicine President Dr. Nathaniel Watson, who was not involved in the study. “For optimal health it is important to make lifestyle choices that promote healthy sleep, such as eating a nutritious diet and exercising regularly.”

Sleep is vital to wellness. If your goal is to age well, you should know, a good night’s sleep can prevent chronic disorders such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. It can also improve oral health.

What this study illustrates beautifully is that each day you make a choice to eat healthfully, you can expect positive effects on your sleep – and, in turn, your whole body health.

Image by Stéfan

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