For Better Sleep, Adjust Your Diet

Sleep quality improved with high fiber, low saturated fat, low sugar diet

(RxWiki News) Many people would agree that what they eat influences their weight, health and even mood. But diet may affect much more than just our waking lives.

In a new study, researchers from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) found that eating a diet low in fiber, but high in saturated fat and sugar may make for lighter, more disturbed and less restorative sleep.

"Our main finding was that diet quality influenced sleep quality," said lead study author Marie-Pierre St-Onge, PhD, in a press release. "It was most surprising that a single day of greater fat intake and lower fiber could influence sleep parameters."

Dr. St-Onge is an assistant professor at the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University Medical Center.

For this study, researchers looked at 26 adults (13 men and 13 women) who were age 35 on average and had a normal weight. These patients spent five nights in a sleep lab, where they attempted to sleep from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Researchers gathered data nightly by polysomnography (a test that records brain waves, blood-oxygen levels, heart rate and breathing, as well as leg and eye movement). They analyzed this data from night 3, after three days of controlled food intake, and then from night 5, after one day of patient-selected food intake.

Participants tended to fall asleep faster after eating meals selected by a nutritionist, which were high in fiber and low in saturated fat, than after eating self-selected meals. While it took patients an average of 29 minutes to fall asleep after consuming self-selected foods and beverages, it only took them an average of 17 minutes to fall asleep after eating meals chosen by a nutritionist.

"This study emphasizes the fact that diet and sleep are interwoven in the fabric of a healthy lifestyle," said AASM President Nathaniel Watson, MD, in a press release. "For optimal health it is important to make lifestyle choices that promote healthy sleep, such as eating a nutritious diet and exercising regularly."

Dr. St-Onge and team concluded that, although this study suggests diet-based recommendations could improve sleep in patients with sleep problems, more research is still needed.

This study was published Jan. 14 in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

The National Institutes of Health funded this research. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Review Date: 
January 27, 2016