There has always been awareness that dietis linked to the length and quality of sleep. Cheese and chocolate have long been blamed for ‘bad dreams’ and alcohol in small doses is associated with promoting deep sleep. The truth is that certain nutrients do play an underlying role in our sleeping patterns and now for the first time a national study has provided a comprehensive insight into the relationship between food and sleep.
The sleeping patterns of participants were divided into four groups: very short duration sleep (< 5 hours per night), short duration (5-6:59 hours per night), standard duration (7-8:59 hours per night) and long duration (9+ hours per night).
Caloric intake varied between the groups with short duration sleepers having the highest calorie intake and long duration sleepers consuming the least calories of the four groups. Food variety was highest in standard sleepers and lowest in very short sleepers implying that a healthy balanced diet is key to optimal sleep duration.
Nutrient variances existed between the groups. Very short duration sleepers consumed less water, lycopene (found in red and orange foods) and carbohydrates than standard sleepers. Short duration sleepers consumed less water, vitamin C and selenium (nuts, meat, shelfish). Long duration sleepers consumed less theobromine (found in chocolate and tea), saturated fat and choline (eggs and meat).
Ensuring that you consume a healthy and balanced diet will improve sleep duration and quality, which in turn improves health and encourages further healthy eating. Limited sleep is linked with overeating and eating ‘junk foods’ in a bid to increase energy levels that are lacking.
Grandner MA, Jackson NJ, Gerstner JR, Knutson KL, Dietary Nutrients Associated with Short and Long Sleep Duration. Data from a Nationally Representative Sample, Appetite, 2013; DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2013.01.004