While still far from a product that guarantees eight solid hours of sleep, dreams of flying and kissable morning breath, scientists have come closer to determining which nutrients promote healthy sleep patterns. Sleep is critical to overall health, and for years, sleep researchers have been pondering factors that predispose individuals to weight gain and obesity.
A new study from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania shows for the first time that certain nutrients may play an underlying role in short and long sleep duration and that people who report eating a large variety of foods—an indicator of an overall healthy diet—had the healthiest sleep patterns. The new research is published online, ahead-of-print in the journal Appetite.
A nutrient more sleep-inducing than CSPAN?
Researchers found that there were a number of dietary differences related to the length of time subjects spent in the land of nod, but these were largely driven by a few key nutrients. Very short sleep was associated with less intake of tap water, lycopene (found in red- and orange-colored foods), and total carbohydrates. Short sleep was associated with less vitamin C, tap water, selenium (found in nuts, meat and shellfish), and more lutein/zeaxanthin (found in green, leafy vegetables). They found that long sleep was associated with less intake of theobromine (found in chocolate and tea), dodecanoic acid (a saturated fat), choline (found in eggs and fatty meats), total carbohydrates, and more alcohol.
Your sleep number … in milligrams?
"What we still don't know is if people altered their diets, would they be able to change their overall sleep pattern?" Michael A. Grandner, PhD, member of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at Penn, told ScienceDaily.com. “This will be an important area to explore going forward as we know that short sleep duration is associated with weight gain and obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Likewise, we know that people who sleep too long also experience negative health consequences. If we can pinpoint the ideal mix of nutrients and calories to promote healthy sleep, the healthcare community has the potential to make a major dent in obesity and other cardiometabolic risk factors."
The study did not investigate nutrients related to snoring.