While everyone knows that eating a big meal or something spicy right before bed can interfere with getting good, quality sleep, a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine suggests that the choices that are made all day long can impact the ability to get some shut-eye.
The research team from Columbia University Medical Center conducted a sleep study on 26 adults for five consecutive nights. For the first three nights, the participants ate meals that had been prepared and controlled by a nutritionist, and they were allowed to eat whatever they wanted after that. Unsurprisingly, the meals prepared by the nutritionist were more balanced, though what was quite surprising was how much it affected the participants' ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
"Our main finding was that diet quality influenced sleep quality," principal investigator Marie-Pierre St-Onge explained in a news release. "It was most surprising that a single day of greater fat intake and lower fiber could influence sleep parameters."
After eating the meals prepared by the nutritionist, which were high in protein and fiber but low in saturated fat, the average participant took about 17 minutes to fall asleep. After eating less nutritious meals, it took them 29 minutes to fall asleep.
"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," St-Onge continued.
Additionally, diet and sleep quality tend to create a feedback loop. After not getting a good night's sleep, it's hard to wake up and eat a healthy meal. Getting enough sleep and waking up and actually feeling rested is key to the desire to wake up and make the good choices necessary for a healthy life.
The researchers hope this avenue of study will be continued, finding out more about how diet affects sleep. They state that in the future, a healthy diet could be considered part of the treatment plan for correcting dysfunctional sleep habits and promoting overall health.