Sleep deprivation thanks to work or social commitments is one of the most common reasons lifestyle diseases crop up.  But stress or lack of physical exercise  or poor lifestyle habits are not the only contributors to your lack of sleep. You may not think about it but your diet most definitely plays a role in determining your sleep patterns.

Researchers at Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania studied more than 4,500 people and their diets to see how it correlated with their sleep patterns and quality of sleep. They looked at how much sleep participants reported getting daily and took a detailed report of their diet. They observed that short sleepers (5 to 6 hours a night) consumed the most calories, followed by normal sleepers (7 to 8 hours), then very short sleepers (less than 5 hours a night). Long sleepers (9 or more hours every night) were seen consuming the least calories, but that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Normal sleepers reaped benefits of food variety in their diet, even though their consumption was higher.  This is the ideal situation as it brings you nutrients from multiple sources, which helps maintain a balance in your body and preserves the crucial but oft-ignored gut microbial diversity.

Very short sleepers had the least variation in what they ate. This group also drank less tap water and consumed fewer total carbs and lycopene, a fruit and vegetable based source of antioxidants.

Other curiosities from the study included findings such as short sleepers consuming less vitamin C, and selenium (found in nuts, meat and shellfish), but more lutein or zeaxanthin, which are found in cruciferous green, leafy veggies. Long sleepers consumed less theobromine, found in chocolate and tea, less saturated fats from certain sources and carbohydrates, but consumed more alcohol.

It’s clear from consumption patterns and the associated sleep quality that the normal range of sleep i.e. 7 to 8 hours every night, is the most preferable as it not only gives the individual adequate rest, but also is linked to a balanced diet.

In addition, sleep patterns are also controlled by other factors such as the time you hit the bed or the amount of physical activity you get on a daily basis. Your fitness routine is a definitive contributor, and when you achieve perfect balance of fitness and diet, the sleep quality automatically improves.

More research will be needed to definitely prove a cause-effect relationship between your sleep and diet. This research doesn’t conclusively prove that the diet influences your sleep patterns – all it indicates is a relationship. But it does pave the way for future research into the matter.

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