According to a recent study, a diet low in fiber and rich in saturated fat and sugar is associated with a lighter, less revitalizing and more disturbed sleep. Findings of the study suggest that an increased intake of fiber could be predictive of a prolonged period of the deep, slow wave stage of sleep. On the contrary, a diet rich in saturated fats and sugars decreased the time of this stage, as well as disrupting continuous sleeping patterns.

Disturbed Sleep — Linking Food With Sleeping Quality

The randomized, crossover study consisted of 26 adults, 13 men and 13 women. They were in the normal weight range with an average age of 35 years. During the five nights they spent in a sleep lab, the participants spent nine hours in bed – 10 am to 7 am – sleeping for an average of 7 hours and 35 minutes every night. Polysomnograhy was used to collect objective nightly sleep data, which was then analyzed starting from night three (three days after controlled feeding) and night five (after a day of ad libitum food intake).

“Our key finding was that the type of diet seemed to influence the quality of sleep,” stated principal investigator Marie-Pierre St-Onge, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine and Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, N.Y. “It was very surprising how only a day of increased fat intake and decreased fiber could alter sleeping parameters.”

Furthermore, researchers found that the participants fell asleep quicker after ingesting a fixed meal suggested by a nutritionist, which was low in saturated fats and high in protein. The participants took an average of 29 minutes to fall asleep after eating self-selected foods and beverages, as opposed to only 17 minutes when eating a controlled diet.

Significance Of The Findings

The findings emphasize how diet and sleep are interconnected in the web of a healthy lifestyle”, explained President Dr. Nathaniel Watson, President of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “In order to achieve optimal health, it is thus essential to make lifestyle choices, such as eating a nutritious diet and exercising regularly that promote healthy sleeping behaviors.”

Moreover, researchers highlighted the significant health implications of the findings, on account of the increasing recognition of the influence of sleep in the development of chronic diseases, such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

The authors suggest that diet-based recommendations be used to enhance the quality of sleep for people who struggle with poor sleeping patterns. However, future studies are required to evaluate this relationship more thoroughly. The study is published in the January issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.