New Study Links Diet to Abnormal Sleep Patterns

Can't sleep

Sleep and diet are even more connected than previously believed, according to new study published in the recent issue of the journal Appetite.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine looked at differences in the diets of people who routinely report abnormal sleep patterns including getting less than eight hours of sleep per night, as well as those who sleep for longer.

Examining the types of food consumed as well as the number of calories per day, the researchers looked at data collected by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2007–2009. The study participants were grouped as well by their sleep patterns: “very short”—sleeping fewer than five hours per night; “short”—sleeping five to six hours per night; “standard”—sleeping seven to eight hours per night; and “long”—sleeping nine or more hours per night.

The team found a connection between caloric intake and number of hours slept: people who consumed the most calories were also more likely to be “short” sleepers, followed by “normal” sleepers, “very short” and “long” sleepers.

What was consumed also factored in to sleep patterns. Very short sleepers were found to consume less water, carbs and antioxidants found in red and orange fruits and vegetables than the other sleep groups. And those long sleepers were found to consume less of a compound common in tea and chocolate, as well as choline, a nutrient common in eggs and meats. They were also more likely to consume more alcohol.

The normal sleepers seemed to consume a more varied and well-rounded diet than the other sleep groups. The researchers hope to look next at whether or not changes to diet will affect changes in sleep patterns.

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.