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How Sleep Can Help or Sabotage Your Diet

sleep can affect your diet

Millions of Americans don’t get the recommended amount of sleep per night for good health. Amidst the obesity epidemic, diet and sleep have become components of the ‘healthy lifestyle’ package. Emerging research has found that shorter sleep durations are associated with weight gain and chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, as well as cognitive deficits. Studies have also found that sleep restriction was associated with lower levels of leptin, the hormone that sends signals to your brain when you are full. Not only this, but levels of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates hunger, were higher compared with those who had longer sleep durations. This means that people who sleep less tend to be hungrier due to decreased appetite regulation compared to those who get a full night’s rest. The feeling of being hungrier contributes to increased food consumption and it also impacts the types of foods you crave.

Another recent study looked at eating patterns and dietary nutrients associated with short and long sleep durations. The study found:

• Those who slept less than five hours per night consumed the least amount of variety in their diet as well as fewer antioxidant containing foods. They also drank less water and consumed fewer total carbohydrates.

• Those who slept five to six hours per night consumed the highest number of calories with less essential vitamin and mineral containing foods. They also drank less water.

• Those who slept seven to eight hours per night had the highest variety of foods in their diet, which is recommended as a key component of healthy eating.

• Those who slept nine hours or more, consumed the least number of calories as well as less theobromine (a dietary component in items such as tea and chocolate) and less total carbohydrates. Long sleepers also tended to drink more alcohol.

While more research is needed to strengthen the implications of these findings, a main takeaway is that having normal, healthful sleep is an important contributor to consuming a varied diet.

To read more on the link between sleep and weight gain, click here.

Written by: Jillian Allen, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern


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