Researchers found that a diet that contains less fiber and more sugar and saturated fat is linked to disrupted, less restorative sleep. In contrast, high fiber intake leads to deeper, slow wave sleep.

In a study, it was found that high energy levels from the intake of more saturated fat cause less slow wave sleep. High sugar intake also results in more days of waking up on the wrong side of the bed.

Polysomnography, also known as a sleep study, was used to gather objective data. Polysomnography involves monitoring brain waves, heart rate, breathing and blood oxygen levels. It also records eye and leg movements.

The study enrolled 26 adults (13 men and 13 women) of normal weight with an average age of 35 years old. They spent five nights in a sleep lab wherein they spent 9 hours (10 p.m. to 7 a.m.) in bed. On average, they slept for 7 hours and 35 minutes every night.

The participants' data were examined on the third night after eating the pre-selected, controlled meals provided by a nutritionist. The next analysis took place on the fifth night after the participants ate meals of their choice.

On average, it took 29 minutes for the participants to fall asleep after eating their own selected meals and beverages. In contrast, it only took them 17 minutes to fall asleep after consuming the pre-selected, controlled meals.

The results show that the participants slept faster after consuming fixed meals that were high in protein and low in saturated fat.

"Our main finding was that diet quality influenced sleep quality," said lead researcher Marie-Pierre St-Onge from the Columbia University Medical Center. St-Onge is an assistant professor in the Center's medicine department and Institute of Human Nutrition.

"It was most surprising that a single day of greater fat intake and lower fiber could influence sleep parameters," she added.

The research suggests that diet recommendations can be utilized to improve poor sleep quality. St-Onge stressed that the research on how diet can affect sleep has widespread health effects. The finding could be crucial, especially amidst the increasing evidence of how sleep affects the development of chronic illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension.

The team stressed that further studies are needed to conclude the association between diet and sleep quality. The findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine's January issue.

The National Institutes of Health supported the study, which also received a grant from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.

Photo: Jacopo Romei | Flickr

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