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Fiber, Sugar Influence The Quality Of Your Sleep

First Posted: Jan 17, 2016 06:45 PM EST

Fiber may be the key to getting better sleep, according to a recent study; that and eating less sugar.

Researchers at the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, NY, found that participants who ate greater amounts of fiber spent more time in stages of deep, slow wave sleep. Yet more sugar intake or higher amounts of saturated fat were linked to less slow wave sleep, as well as more interrupted sleep periods.

"This study emphasizes the fact that diet and sleep are interwoven in the fabric of a healthy lifestyle," said American Academy of Sleep Medicine President Dr. Nathaniel Watson, who was not involved in the study. "For optimal health it is important to make lifestyle choices that promote healthy sleep, such as eating a nutritious diet and exercising regularly."

During the study, researchers examined 26 adults (13 men and 13 women), with an average of 35 years. All of the participants were of normal weight at the beginning of the study.

During 5 nights in a sleep lab, they spent 9 hours in bed from approximately 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. sleeping between 7 hours and 35 minutes per night. Researchers gathered objective information on sleep via polysomnography--or testing used to diagnosed sleep disorders. They analyzed sleep data from the third night, after 3 days of controlled feeding and then on the fifth night--as well as after one day in which the participants could eat whatever and whenever they wanted.  

Findings revealed that when nutritionists prepared meals that were lower in saturated fat and higher in protein than self-selected meals, participants fell asleep faster at about 17 minutes. However, when they picked meals of their choice, it took them about 29 minutes to fall asleep.

"The finding that diet can influence sleep has tremendous health implications, given the increasing recognition of the role of sleep in the development of chronic disorders such as hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular disease," said principal investigator Marie-Pierre St-Onge, PhD, assistant professor in the department of medicine and Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, NY.

The study is published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

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