Want a better night’s sleep? Stick to a healthy diet
Cleaning up your diet could be the key to a better night’s sleep, it seems. American researchers have found that the foods we consume in a single day can affect the quality of our sleep for the night ahead. “Our main finding was that diet quality influenced sleep quality,” said the study’s lead author Marie-Pierre St-Onge, assistant professor in the department of medicine and Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University Medical Centre, New York, “It was most surprising that a single day of greater fat intake and lower fibre could influence sleep parameters.”
The team of researchers studied the sleep of 26 adults aged 35 years old. A total of 13 women and 13 men spent five nights being monitored in a sleep lab between 10pm and 7am After adjusting participants’ diets, tests were carried out during the third and fifth nights, with physiological changes of all kinds monitored and recorded, from heart rate and muscle contractions, to brain activity and eye movement.
The results showed that participants given a menu rich in fibre and protein, developed by a nutritionist, fell asleep more quickly, drifting off in 17 minutes compared to an average 29 minutes when eating the foods of their choice.
As well as falling asleep more quickly, the healthy eaters enjoyed a longer phase of deep, slow-wave sleep — the phase that helps us recover from accumulated physical fatigue. Participants given more fatty foods had shorter slow-wave sleep cycles. Sugar, on the other hand, was associated with more arousals from sleep.
The findings could bring precious hope to people suffering from sleep disorders, which are in turn associated with the development of chronic illnesses like hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The researchers underlined that when accompanied with regular physical exercise, switching to a healthier diet is a simple lifestyle choice that anyone can make to help promote good sleep.