A bad night of sleep affects everyone sooner or later. In many cases, stress is the culprit: an upcoming important meeting, interview, or test could inspire loss of slumber. After the big day, chances are your sleep pattern will return to normal. For many others, though, insomnia can linger for days, sometimes weeks. This is the kind of sleeplessness that can have lasting affects on your daily routine and diet. A study from the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine shows an association between what we eat and how we sleep.
"In general, we know that those who report between [seven to eight] hours of sleep each night are most likely to experience better overall health and well being," study researcher Michael A. Grandner, Ph.D., of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the university, said in a statement, "so we simply asked the question, 'Are there differences in the diet of those who report shorter sleep, longer sleep, or standard sleep patterns?'"
Dr. Susan Mitchell and Regina Ragone, registered dietitians, nutritionists, and media experts, say there is indeed a direct link between lack of sleep and diet. “Two out of every 10 Americans sleep less than six hours a night. Your body needs seven to eight hours. A poll from the National Sleep Foundation found that those of you sleeping too few hours report being too tired to work efficiently, to exercise, or to eat healthy. The poll suggests that inadequate sleep is associated with unhealthy lifestyles and negatively impacts health and safety.”
Some of the negative effects of lack of sleep directly impact diet, leading to long-term health conditions like heart disease and diabetes. “A lack of sleep actually wears down the fine-tuned machine known as your body and you sustain physical, mental, and emotional wear and tear that takes its toll on your health in a lot of negative ways," explains Ragone. "According to the sleep experts, this ongoing wear and tear is not offset by sleeping in on Saturday or Sunday mornings. To be specific, this wear and tear affects the body’s insulin resistance (meaning how well insulin and blood glucose work as a team) and increases the chance for metabolic syndrome which affects the metabolic processes in the body.”.
A better night’s sleep for you potentially means less weight gain and a healthier lifestyle. Ragone and Mitchell suggest eating more bananas, fish, fortified cereal, and chickpeas to your diet to help combat insomnia. “These foods contain vitamin B6, which helps the body produce melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone.”
Ready to count some sheep? Here are 10 effects poor or insufficient sleep can have:
Think about it: You wake up tired and reach for the coffee or an energy drink to jump-start your day. The half-life for caffeine is around 4 hours, so come the end of that cycle, your body will need another pick-me-up. This cycle can last all day. Don’t believe us? Just check out the line at Starbucks come 3 p.m.
Failure to get enough sleep could mean an overload of carbs the next day. A study by Plamen Penev, M.D., Ph.D. of the University of Chicago showed that when bedtimes were restricted to five and a half hours of sleep or less, study subjects consumed more carb heavy snacks the next day.
This article was originally published on December 23, 2014.