Our Choice of Foods Affects the Quality of Our Sleep

Research has found that our diet affects the quality of our sleep. Picture credit: r-labrecque.com

Research has found that our diet affects the quality of our sleep. Picture credit: r-labrecque.com

Can your dinner affect how you sleep? A very recent study from the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University Medical Center suggests that it does. The conclusion of the study was that a diet low in fibre, high in unsaturated fats and sugar is more likely to be associated with light, less restorative sleep. In addition, the individual is more likely to be aroused from his/her sleep.

In this study the researchers followed 26 adults between the ages of 30-45 who had prior sleep problems. These individuals were monitored for five nights in a sleep lab, spending nine hours in bed each night from 10pm to 7am. During the first four days, participants consumed a controlled diet; on day five, the participant was allowed to select his/her own diet. Sleep data was collected from every night.

Results showed that sleep duration was similar during the controlled diet and self selected diet. However, the quality of sleep was different. On the day when the diet was self-selected, individuals had less of the deep slow-wave sleep and it took a longer time to fall asleep.

Food analysis revealed that ingestion of high fibre foods predicted less stage 1 (=very light) sleep and more slow-wave sleep. When the diet consisted more saturated fat, sugars and processed carbohydrates, this lead to less slow (deep) wave sleep and frequent arousals

Dr. St-Onge who led the study mentioned that the results reveal a vicious cycle of sleep. Poor sleep increases impulses for a diet with increased sugar and fat, and that in turn will adversely affect sleep. So the cycle of poor sleep becomes continuous.

Diets high in carbohydrate intake may delay circadian rhythms (our natural sleep/wake rhythms) and lower secretion of melatonin, which can delay the onset of sleep.

And remember - preferably, we aim to have our last meal a minimum of 3 hours before going to bed to allow the gastrointestinal system a rest over the night. This way the body is also able to divert energy from energy-intensive digestion to other processes which take place at night.

REFERENCE: St-Onge MP, Roberts A, Shechter A, Choudhury AR. Fiber and saturated fat are associated with sleep arousals and slow wave sleep. J Clin Sleep Med, 2016;12(1):19%u201324. DOI: 10.5664/jcsm.5384

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