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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.

Nighttime milk is obtained by milking cows at nighttime. Nighttime milk is naturally higher in the sleep promoting hormone melatonin and the essential amino acid tryptophan. More research is needed to support the sleep promoting benefits of nighttime milk.

Conclusion

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.

References

  1. Al Khatib Haya K, Hall Wendy L, Creedon Alice, Ooi Emily, Masri Tala, McGowan Laura, Harding V Scott, Darzi Julia and Pot Gerda K. Sleep extension is a feasible lifestyle intervention in free-living adults who are habitually short sleepers: a potential strategy for decreasing intake of free sugars? A randomized controlled pilot study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2018.
  2. McHill Andrew W, Phillips Andrew JK, Czeisler Charles A , Keating Leigh ,Yee Karen ,Barger Laura K, Garaulet Marta ,Scheer Frank , and Klerman Elizabeth B. Later circadian timing of food intake is associated with increased body fat. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017.
  3. 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
  4. Patterson Ruth E, Emond Jennifer A, Natarajan Loki, Wesseling-Perry Katherine, Kolonel Lauren N, Jardack  Patrick, Ancoli-Israel Sonia and Arab Lenore. Short sleep duration is associated with higher energy intake and   expenditure among African-American and non-Hispanic white adults. J Nutr. 2014; 144(4):461-466.
  5. St-Onge Marie-Pierre, McReynolds Andrew, Trivedi Zalak B, Roberts Amy L, Sy Melissa and Hirsch Joy. Sleep restriction leads to increased activation of brain regions sensitive to food stimuli. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012; 95(4):818-824.
  6. St-Onge Marie-Pierre, Mikic Anja and Pietrolungo Cara E. Effects of Diet on Sleep Quality. Adv Nutr. 2016; 7(5):938- 949.
  7. Verhoef Scanne PM, Camps Stefan GJA, Gonnissen Hanne K, Westerterp Klass R and Westerterp-Plantenga, Margriet S. Concomitant changes in sleep duration and body weight and body composition during weightloss and 3-mo weight maintenance. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013; 98(1):25-31.
  8. Zhou, Jing & Kim, Jung Eun & Lh Armstrong, Cheryl & Chen, Ningning & W Campbell, Wayne . Higher-protein diets improve indexes of sleep in energy-restricted overweight and obese adults: results from 2 randomized            controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016; 103(3):766-774.

One of the best feelings is when you get a good night’s sleep and feel refreshed to take on the day. Unfortunately, many of us (especially us graduate students) stay up too late and wake up too early, which leads to not enough sleep and/or poor sleep quality. However, getting enough sleep may be an important health habit to prioritize since research has suggested there is a link between sleep and nutrition.

Recently, a study that found a negative correlation between sleep and sugar consumption has been getting a lot of media attention. In this study, researchers from King’s College London recruited 42 healthy participants who reported frequently sleeping less than 7 hours of sleep per night. At baseline, participants were given a wrist actigraph to objectively measure sleep and were asked to record their sleep and wake times in 7-day sleep diaries, along with their food intake.

After baseline assessments, participants were randomly assigned with stratification to the sleep extension group (n = 21) or the control group (n = 21). Participants in the sleep extension group were given a personalized sleep consultation session with the purpose of encouraging participants to increase time in bed by about 1-1.5 hours each night. The control maintained their usual habits.

After one month, researchers found that the sleep extension group increased their time in bed by 55 minutes, sleep period by 47 minutes, and sleep duration by 21 minutes, on average. These increases led the sleep extension group to meet a weekly average sleep duration of the recommended 7-9 hours. These increases in sleep were not observed in the control group. However, participants in the sleep extension group reported a decline in sleep quality. The researchers speculated this might have been due to the adjustment period of spending more time in bed. Participants in the sleep extension group also self-reported lower sugar consumption, which was significantly different from the control group. There was a trend towards a decrease in carbohydrate and fat intake in the sleep extension group as compared to the control group, but this was not significantly different. The researchers found no difference in cardiometabolic risk factors or appetite hormones between the groups from pre- to post-.

These results demonstrate that sleeping longer could be associated with consuming less sugar. However, this study had several limitations, such as using a small sample of predominantly white females and relying on self-reported food records. More research needs to be done in this area using larger randomized controlled trials over a longer duration. For now, the current sleep recommendations are to aim for 7-9 hours of sleep a night.

 

Reference:

  1. Al-Khatib HK, Hall WL, Creedon A, et al. Sleep extension is a feasible lifestyle intervention in free-living adults who are habitually short sleepers: a potential strategy for decreasing intake of free sugars? A randomized controlled pilot study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2018;0:1–11. doi:1093/ajcn/nqx030