Researchers Have Found a New Connection Between Diet and Sleep Patterns

Girl Sleeping

We’ve known for a while that when you don’t get enough sleep, you’re likely to overeat and make poorer food choices (Time). But what a group in the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine found is that what you eat may also affect how you sleep (Perelman School of Medicine). Though this doesn’t necessarily tell us how weight problems and sleep affect one another, merely that they’re correlated. Nonetheless, it gives us more insight into the connection.

Details On the Study

Researchers found that those with a more nutrient-rich, well-rounded diet tended to have more normal sleep patterns. Using a survey, researchers asked people whether they were “very short” (less than five hours per night), “short” (five to six hours per night), “standard” (seven to eight hours per night), or “long” (nine or more hours per night).

Then the researchers went on a painstakingly detailed process of chronicle every single thing that went into participants’ mouths, including glasses of water. They looked at the nutrient intake of the other groups compared to the “standard” group. Controlling for demographics, socioeconomics, activity level, and several other factors, they found that the caloric intake for each group differed quite a bit. “Short” sleepers at the most calories, followed by “standard,” then “very short,” then “long.”

Then they looked at food variety. “Standard” sleepers had the most variety, while “very short” sleepers had the least. While there were many nutrients differences, according to the study, a few stand out for the different groups. Here’s the breakdown:

Very Short Sleepers

  • Less tap water
  • Less lycopene, which is found and red and orange fruits and vegetables (which are high in carotenoids and have a beneficial influence on your skin)
  • Less total carbohydrates

Short Sleepers

  • Less tap water
  • Less vitamin C
  • Less selenium, which is found in nuts, meat, and shellfish.
  • More lutein/zeaxanthin, which is found in leafy, green vegetables

Long Sleepers

  • Less theobromine, which is found in chocolate and tea
  • Less dodecanoic acid, which is a saturated fat
  • Less choline, which is found in eggs and fatty meats
  • Less total carbohydrates
  • More alcohol

Still a Lot to Learn

Though we know there’s a correlation between food choices and sleep, we don’t really know the correlation. We know those who sleep less are more likely to be overweight and obese and also more likely to have cardiovascular issues (Obesity). We also know that getting more than eight hours can cause cardiovascular problems (Health Finder).

Future studies will shed light on how these two are connected. For now, we can get an idea of what affects what.

How This Fits in with Skin

Your skin is affected by both sleeplessness and diet. Not sleeping enough doesn’t give skin the proper time to heal itself. Not sleeping enough also doesn’t give you the adequate time to have nutrients from your skin care absorbed into your skin, so it’s definitely in your best interest to get enough sleep.

As for diet, there are all kinds of information about how diet affects your skin. From dairy and sugar influencing acne to eating carotenoid-rich food to get a golden glow, what you eat most definitely shows up on your face.

The fact that the two affect each other means that it’s even more important to aim for the right amounts of everything: a standard seven to eight hours of sleep a night and a diet that covers all the nutrient bases.

Bottom Line

There’s a correlation between how you sleep and what you eat. People who sleep in different non-standard lengths — either too long or too short — tend to have certain vitamins deficiencies. In the future, we’ll find out how these two are connected. In the meantime, it’s a good idea to try to get plenty — but not too much! — sleep and to eat a diet rich in healthy foods — and get plenty of variety!

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by Natalie Bell

2 thoughts on “Researchers Have Found a New Connection Between Diet and Sleep Patterns

  1. ali says:

    i am confuse, i am very short sleeper so i sleep only 3 hours. so what i need to make sleep well?
    i use boil cool water 3 to 4 litres every day,
    in breakfast i eat museli and milk.
    protein shake and banana
    for lunch i eat chappati and omellete contain of tomato and onion. and youghurt bowl
    dinner will be either brown rice with peas , or chappati with paneer spinch or 2 whole meal pittas with shop bough hummus and salad.

    before bed i drink milk.

    but never sleep well and often struggle to sleep well and wake up 5am and wait for sleep to come. hope you could use my research to help me how to improve, daily i took multivitiamin.

  2. Natalie Bell says:

    @Ali — You might consider discussing your sleeping problems with your doctor. It could be that you sleep troubles are the sign of an underlying issue. Best of luck!

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