There are a million diets out there, whether they’re fads or lifestyle changes. But the most basic approach is usually what prevails; if you eat healthy and add some exercise into your daily routines you’ll get results. Obvious, right? Well, same goes for most things, it seems. While various studies purport to tell us how to get a good night’s shut-eye (sleeping with one foot out of the covers, going to bed at a particular time, getting a specific number of hours, don’t watch any TV before you hit the sack), this latest one strikes us as good old common sense. Obvious. Right.
A new study from Columbia University Medical Center finds that diet can make a difference in sleep quality. Twenty-six people participated in the study and over the course of five nights, researchers found that when they ate healthier foods lower in sugar and bad fats and higher in fibre, they slept better. And when their diets were higher in saturated fats and sugar and lower in fibre, their sleep was lighter and more disrupted.
The differing diets even affected the process of getting to sleep. The participants took an average of 17 minutes to fall asleep after eating the nutritionist-designed meals, while it took them 29 minutes to fall asleep after eating what they what they wanted – i.e. more saturated fat, less fibre, more sugar. We’re thinking donuts. Mmmm donuts.
“The finding that diet can influence sleep has tremendous health implications, given the increasing recognition of the role of sleep in the development of chronic disorders such as hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” said principal investigator Marie-Pierre St-Onge, assistant professor in the Department of Medicine and Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University Medical Center in New York.
“Our main finding was that diet quality influenced sleep quality,” added St-Onge. “It was most surprising that a single day of greater fat intake and lower fibre could influence sleep parameters.” So, less fat, more fibre = better sleep. Got it.
Compelling stuff, right? If diet can dramatically influence sleep in a five-day study, just think of what it does to us in the long term. Given the known connections between sleep issues, food, and chronic diseases the authors’ discovery is even more exciting. Because with healthier food choices, something actually within our control, just imagine how much better our sleeps and overall health could be.
The old adage of “you are what you eat” might need a little revision: “You are what you sleep.”