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How Nutrition and Sleep Are Interdependent

Can you live without drinking water? Without food? Without sleep?

You may wonder why we are asking such weird questions!

But the Guinness World Record claims you can live just 11 days without sleep (being sleep-deprived).

Some scientists hypothesize that sleep deprivation affects body metabolisms and hormone secretions. On the contrary, some scientists hypothesize that changes in body metabolism and conditions like obesity affect sleep quality.

Considering the research done on both sides, experts recommend treating other body problems by treating your poor sleep quality. Bringing good quality sleep under control will solve not only metabolic issues but also mental health. 

Before going through the association between nutrition (diet) and sleep, let’s dive deep into some sleep insights and current sleep trends prevailing in the United States.

Sleep Facts and Trends

A Precision Nutrition article shares some of the interesting facts about sleep:

The article also presents the current sleep trends in the USA:

A 2005 national study involving 10,000 adults states that the obesity epidemic found among American individuals may have increased due to decreased sleep quality or the number of hours slept. The study also found that people aged 32 to 49 and those who slept less than 7 hours a night were highly likely to become obese. Also, wakefulness beyond midnight was more likely to increase the chances of obesity.

Another study involving roughly around 9,000 children from their birth proved that children (in the age of 30 months) who slept the lowest hours were more likely to get obese at the age of 7.

A Sleep Foundation article confirms that around 18 million Americans have sleep apnea, a sleep-related breathing disorder. The report also states that Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is more likely to affect 2-9% of adults in the United States.

Scientific Reasons behind Sleep

As an individual continues to experience a lack of sleep, the sleep deprivation can affect patterns of various hormone secretions and the overall body health:

woman sleeping

The body’s metabolisms get altered when such alterations occur, leading to slight deficiencies and severe hormonal imbalances.

Dzaja A et al. study analyzes the relationship between sleep and appetite. The study found that sleep loss enhanced the ghrelin hormone (appetite-stimulating hormone) levels in the bloodstream at night.

Also, healthy and young men with an average weight who had slept for just four hours for two days experienced lower levels of leptin and higher levels of ghrelin and showed increased cravings for processed food items, namely sweets and baked products.

Another similar study by Sheen AJ et al. analyzed the relationship between sleep quality and glucose regulation in healthy individuals. The study found that healthy men who slept for just four hours for six consecutive nights showed insulin sensitivity values similar to those of an elderly pre-diabetic patient.

Nutrition, Exercise, and Sleep

An article published by the Sleep Foundation discusses the association between sleep and the diet-exercise couple.

Diet and Sleep:

Lifestyles have changed, and so do eating habits. With a round-the-clock culture, 2-3 cups of coffee, 4-5 handy tins of soda, and 3-4 chocolate bars have become the food for many. What to eat and what not to eat before sleeping keeps changing drastically nowadays. Unhealthy eating habits like these induce a lack of sleep and tiredness. Though these food habits keep you awake during the day, they prevent nocturnal sleep in many ways (either by regulating the appetite or causing some sleep-related breathing problems). 

Several research studies have proven that people with poor sleep tend to experience abnormal appetites with decreased leptin levels and increased ghrelin levels.

Exercise and Sleep:

Working out or exercising has become an everyday routine. Sleep experts suggest that exercise induces faster sleep in 99% of individuals. But, there is an optimal time to exercise. Experts suggest that late afternoon is the best time for workouts. Additionally, they recommend working out at least three to four hours before bed, which will help keep the body temperature low and relax to induce sleep. On the other hand, if you exercise just before going to bed, it will increase your wakefulness throughout the night due to increased body temperature and, at times, appetite after immediate exercise. 

Therefore, if one of nutrition, exercise, or sleep is off, the other two are significantly impacted.

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Relationship between Nutrition and Sleep

Obesity has become a familiar and common symptom for people with sleep apnea. Apparently, researchers found that dietary or nutrition intake plays a prominent role in sleep. 

Several experimental studies have investigated the association between nutrition intake (dietary components – carbohydrates, fats, and so forth) and sleep quality (sleep duration, architecture, and so on). Likewise, several cross-sectional studies have found that sleep duration and quality are significantly associated with obesity, diabetes, blood pressure, and cardiovascular diseases.

Empirical Evidence

A 2016 research study published in the Journal of Advances in Nutrition examined whether and how dietary intake affects sleep quality in terms of sleep duration, architecture, and efficiency. The study revealed that the two critical stages of sleep (slow-wave sleep and rapid-eye-movement sleep) determine sleep quality, which shows an inverse association with dietary intake (carbohydrate and fat).

The study also found that:

Another study published in the Journal of Occupational Health has well-studied how the intake of vegetables, confectionary food items, and unhealthy eating habits affect sleep quality.

The research revealed that;

healthy diet

Sleep Apnea and Obesity

Sleep apnea is related to not just breathing difficulties during sleep and other serious health risks, including cardiovascular diseases, stroke, heart attack, and increased sleepiness during the day.

Significantly, being overweight or obese strongly correlates with the sleep quality of sleep apnea patients. Observational studies have shown that people with obesity are more likely to have sleep apnea. Alternately, most sleep apnea patients develop obesity as a side effect. 

Patients who are obese tend to develop unwanted respiratory problems and face difficulty breathing, which leads to sleep apnea. In another way, sleep apnea patients usually feel tired and lazy of undergoing a balanced diet intake or exercising habits, which further increases the chances of daytime sleepiness and severe obesity-related consequences.

Ultimately, these conditions lower energy levels and make it difficult for the body to undergo any workouts for weight loss.

What, in addition to Nutrition Intake, can help with Good Sleep?

Here are several nutrition-related elements that aid in sleep induction or naturally promote sleep:

Sleep promoting Foods and Drinks

A Healthline article shares the menu of foods and drinks that promote good sleep. If you’re already adhering to this healthy menu, well and good! If you’re just opposite this menu, the time for change has arrived.

The primary fatty acid composition of walnuts includes alpha-linolenic acid and omega-3 fatty acids that convert to DHA. This DHA in the body promotes quality sleep as it helps increase serotonin production.

The carbohydrates in oatmeal, when consumed, create a drowsiness effect in the body. This feeling favors the sleepiness mode. Also, oatmeal is a high source of melatonin, which induces sleep.

Most nuts, including almonds, contain a reasonable quantity of melatonin that helps promote sleep by activating the body clock and regulating the circadian rhythm.

Research studies prove that eating white rice (rich in carbohydrates) improves the sleep quality of individuals. Eating an hour before sleep may show promising effects on sleep stimulation.

Experimental studies have shown that individuals who took chamomile extract twice/day fell asleep faster (at least 15 minutes) than those who did not take it.

The banana fruit, a significant source of magnesium ions, possesses sleep-promoting characteristics.

Experimental studies prove that having a little bit of fatty fish in the dinner course may help individuals fall asleep faster. Also, fatty fish helps individuals sleep deeper with less awakening.

However, the 360-degree benefits of having these food items on your menu can be beneficial only if consumed at least 3 hours before bedtime. Eating a healthy meal minutes before bedtime may lead to controversial reactions and indigestion problems, spoiling your sleep quality.

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Weight loss trends may walk in and walk out…

Craziness toward gym workouts may enter and leave… 

But the essentiality of healthy sleep cannot be diminished. It’s inevitable and eternal for every individual.

Due to changing lives and habits, it has become the need of the decade to educate all age groups, including parents, adults, and children, about the importance of sleep in their lives. Due to the fact that it controls dietary intake, which is the foundation of our efforts to live a healthy lifestyle, sleep has become a requirement.

Sleep well, and stay fit…! 

Take The Epworth
Sleepiness Scale Test

Be as truthful as possible. Read the situation then select your response by selecting the following scale to choose the most appropriate number for each situation.

How likely are you to doze off or fall asleep in the following situations, in contrast to feeling just tired?

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