We know that diet has considerable influence over sleep quality, but new research suggests the reverse is actually just as true.
According to a pioneering study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, when we fail to adhere to the National Institutes of Health’s official guideline for adequate sleep, our cravings for added sugars, saturated fats, and caffeine surge dramatically.
By the end of the analysis, poor or insufficient sleep was associated with a 500 to 800 increased calorie intake per day. Alongside higher saturated fat, sugar and caffeine consumption, the experiment group additionally demonstrated a routine failure to meet The Reference Daily Intake’s recommendations for whole grains and fiber.
“In our modern society, we oftentimes work late, we eat our meals late and sometimes sleep is kind of put by the wayside in terms of how important it is to our overall healthy lifestyle,” explained Dr. Brooke Aggarwal, senior author of the study and assistant professor of medical sciences at Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. “Our study really highlights the importance of good, quality sleep for the management of body weight as well as potentially preventing heart disease among women.”
Unpacking the association
The researchers from Columbia University’s Irving Medical Center began by analyzing the dietary patterns of the 500 respondents between the ages of 20 and 75 who participated in a year-long study of sleep patterns and cardiovascular risk in women (The AHA Go Red for Women program).
Each individual was tasked with completing multi-faced questionnaires that documented their calorie intake, the degree of sleep they received each night respective to both quantity and quality, before having their eating patters surveyed against portion guidelines.
Most healthy adults require seven to nine hours of sleep per night for optimal function according to the National Institute of Health.
More than 33% of the women involved in the new paper reported either some form of poor sleep quality or clinical insomnia. Roughly 30% slept less than seven hours a night and just about a quarter received less than seven hours per night in addition to struggling with chronic insomnia.
Invariably, poor sleep was adversely linked to portion control, calorie consumption and a failure to receive important macronutrients. Young women were more likely to abstain from dairy as a result of poor sleep compared to older participants, while whole grains and fiber were the nutrients most lacking from the study pool as a whole.
Unfortunately, it’s much too soon to conclude anything categorical but Aggarwal and her team suspect the association to be both behavioral and neurological in nature.
When we do not receive a sufficient amount of sleep at night we generally have a harder time making rational decisions and regulating our impulses—but it actually goes deeper than that.
“It’s previously been shown that when we are sleep deprived, or we don’t get good quality sleep, our hormones can actually stimulate hunger,” Aggarwal said. “The ones that regulate the suppression of hunger and fullness and satiety can be off-balance.”
Aggarwal intends on extending research to determine the extent to which these finds are translatable in men and younger demographics.