What You Eat May Affect How Well You Sleep

What You Eat May Affect How Well You Sleep
If you want to sleep better tonight, it may pay to focus on how well you’re eating right now.

While it’s no secret that sleep affects how well you eat—numerous studies have found that skimping on shut-eye may trigger hunger and cravings for high-calorie, high-fat, and high-carb foods—a new study is among the first to explore the reverse: how diet choices may impact sleep habits.

University of Pennsylvania and University of Chicago researchers analyzed the food logs of 5,587 people in a large, national health and nutrition survey and compared how they differed among four groups of sleep types: very short sleepers (less than five hours per night); short sleepers (five to six hours per night); normal sleepers (seven to eight hours per night); and long sleepers (more than nine hours per night).

Among the more interesting findings, recently published in the journal Appetite:

Very short sleepers: Fewer vitamins and minerals

*Lower intake of B vitamins thiamin and folic acid
*Lower intake of phosphorus, iron, zinc, and selenium
*Lower intake of lycopene and selenium
*Lower intake of total carbohydrates and protein
*Lower intake of tap water

Short sleepers: More calories

*Ate 2201 calories a day
*Lower intake of vitamin C and selenium
*Lower intake of tap water
*Higher intake of antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin

Normal sleepers: A more diverse diet

*Had the most variety of food types in their diets (a sign of better heath)

Long sleepers: More alcohol

*Higher intake of alcohol
*Lower intake of theobromine, an antioxidant found in chocolate and tea
*Lower intake of dodecanoic acid, a healthy saturated fat in coconut oil associated with better cholesterol and heart health
*Lower intake of choline and lycopene

So what does this all mean? Although the study seems to raise more questions than answers, researchers say their data sheds light on the “complex relationship between diet and sleep and the potential role of diet in the relationship between sleep and obesity and other cardiometabolic risks.”

“There may be certain substances that work on the molecular level to regulate some of the biological machinery of sleep, but there hasn’t been a lot done to tease that apart,” study author Michael Grandner, PhD, told Time.com. For example, deficiency in the mineral iron has been linked with the sleep-stealing condition restless leg syndrome.

Ultimately, the site reports, scientists could determine a perfect mix of calories and nutrients for a good night’s sleep.

In the meantime, it seems clear that normal sleep and healthier eating habits go hand in hand. For help snagging more shut-eye, don’t miss these 19 little tricks for sounder sleep or these brilliant secrets from bizarre sleep experts.

Photo Credit: iStockphoto

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