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What we eat affects how we sleep, study finds

By Sola Ogundipe

We are what we eat and might sleep how we eat, too if findings from a new study from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine are anything to go by. The research  published in “Apeptite”, shows an association between what we eat and how we sleep.

“In general, we know that those who report between [seven to eight] hours of sleep each night are most likely to experience better overall health and well being, so we simply asked the question, ‘Are there differences in the diet of those who report shorter sleep, longer sleep, or standard sleep patterns?'” study researcher Michael A. Grandner, Ph.D., of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the university, said in a statement.

Researchers examined the daily calories and foods consumed — down to a glass of water — by people who were part of the 2007-2009 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They also gathered information on the amount of time the study participants slept, putting them into four categories: “very short” sleepers, who slept fewer than five hours a night; “short” sleepers, who slept five to six hours a night; “standard” sleepers, who slept seven to eight hours a night; and “long” sleepers, who slept nine or more hours a night.

And researchers did, in fact, find an association between the number of calories consumed and how long the study participants slept. Those who consumed the most were more likely to be “short” sleepers. Interestingly enough, “normal” sleepers were the next type to consume a lot of calories, followed by “very short” sleepers and then “long” sleepers, researchers found.

The researchers also identified different associations between sleep time and the types of nutrients the participants ate. For example, very short sleepers consumed less tap water, total carbohydrates and a compound found in red and orange foods, compared with the other kinds of sleepers. Meanwhile, the long sleepers consumed less of a compound found in tea and chocolate, as well as the nutrient choline (in eggs and some meats) than other kinds of sleepers, but more alcohol.

Overall, researchers noted that the very short, short and long sleepers consumed a less varietal diet than those who were considered normal sleepers. The question is now whether changing eating habits can actually affect sleep, as the study only showed an association.


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