Sleep in America
Do you prioritize your sleep? If you do, you are among the 10% of American adults who make sleep a priority. However, if sleep is not your priority, you may relate more to the 33% of American adults who currently sleep less than seven hours per night, which may have health consequences.
Potential Consequences of Neglecting Your Sleep
Poor sleep habits can be detrimental to your overall health. Short sleepers (<7 hours) and those with low sleep quality (sleep efficiency < 85%) are at risk for weight gain, obesity, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Lack of sleep and low sleep quality have been associated with an increase in cravings and an increase in appetite. Current research has focused on how sleep duration and quality may influence or be influenced by nutrition and eating behavior.
Behavior Influences Sleep
In one weight loss study, researchers observed sleep changes in overweight and obese participants over a ten-month period. Participants lost weight and slept longer at the end of the two-month weight loss plan and continued to sleep longer up to their 3-month follow up appointment. The researchers concluded that successful weight loss is accompanied by an increase in sleep time.
Another study focused on the timing of food intake and how it relates to fat mass and circadian rhythm (your 24-hour internal clock) in college-aged participants. The findings of this study showed that participants with a higher body fat percentage (32.4% body fat) consumed more calories later in the day and closer to their biological sleeping time than the lean group (22.2% body fat).
Sleep has also been shown to influence food choices. Recently, a study found that when adults who were short sleepers (sleeping 5 to less than 7 hours a night) increased their sleep time by 21 minutes per night, they consumed less sugar and less fat when compared to a group that did not extend their sleeping hours.
Nutrition and Sleep
It is not yet clear if sleep is a driver of food intake or if food intake is a driver of sleep. Increases in dietary protein, fish and vegetables have been shown to elicit many health benefits including benefits related to sleep. For example, in a weight loss study, dietary protein intake above the current dietary recommendations of 0.8g protein per kilogram of body weight daily, improved sleep quality in overweight and obese middle-aged and older adults when compared to a normal protein diet.
Foods such as milk obtained from cows at night, fatty fish (>5% fat), kiwi (2 kiwi fruits/day 1 hour before bed), and cherries (tart cherry juice or whole fruit) have been labeled as “sleep promoting foods”, but further research is needed to justify these claims.
Sleep has been shown to impact various aspects of behavior and well-being. If you are looking to improve your health and nutrition, it may be time to put sleep on your priority list.
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- National Sleep Foundation’s 2018 Sleep in America Poll Shows Americans Failing to Prioritize Sleep. (n.d.) Retrieved from https://sleepfoundation.org/media-center/press-release/2018-sleep-in-america-poll-shows
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