A new clinical study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests it might.
For the study, researchers randomly split 42 adults who were habitual short sleepers into two groups. One group was coached on increasing their sleep time. The other received no intervention and served as a control group.
All participants kept weekly food and sleep diaries. Sleep times were verified by motion detectors they wore on their wrists, with about half of the test group participants able to increase their sleep time by as much as 90 minutes. No changes were seen in the other group.
When the dietary logs were analyzed, it was found that those who slept longer ate less sugar and fewer carbs than the others. As principal investigator Dr. Wendy Hall noted,
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.
But it’s not only that sleep may affect what you eat. As we noted before, what you eat can also affect the quality of your sleep. Earlier research suggests that high fiber diets cause better sleep; more sugar or fat, worse sleep.
If how much you sleep influences what you choose to eat, not getting enough sleep could lead to a cycle of poor food choices causing more sleep deprivation, which would result in even more poor food choices. Talk about a vicious cycle!
And in the end, both oral and systemic health take a hit.
Given the importance of sleep, it’s important to do everything possible to improve the quality of you sleep.
Go to bed at a regular time each night and wake up at the same time each day.
Avoid eating anything after 7pm.
Avoid caffeinated and sweetened beverages in the evening.
Take a cup of chamomile tea – or one of the many “sleepytime” or “bedtime” blends available. These typically include soothing, relaxing ingredients like chamomile, lemongrass, passionflower, and Valerian root. If you don’t like tea, try a few drops of Valerian extract in water before turning in for the night.
Take some calcium and magnesium before bedtime – or a melatonin supplement.
Keep your bedroom dark, cool and quiet.
Avoid TV, computers, smartphones, and other screen-based gadgets at least an hour before bedtime. Keep tech out of your sleep space.
Practice controlled breathing such as Dr. Weil’s 4-7-8 breathing exercise.
Play some soft, relaxing music to go to sleep to – or natural sounds to help you relax.
Keep a notepad and pen by your bed, so if you find your thoughts racing, you can jot them down quickly – and then let them go.
Image by Chad fitz