Diet and physical activity go hand-in-hand when it comes to losing or maintaining a healthy weight, but have you ever considered how sleep is equally as important? There’s certainly a connection between sleep and nutrition.
In fact, research has shown that leptin, the hormone which controls feelings of fullness, decreases when you don’t get enough quality sleep. At the same time, ghrelin, the hormone which controls feelings of hunger, increases with short sleep duration. Simply not getting enough sleep can lead to increased food intake and obesity.
What you eat can also impact the quality of sleep you get. Studies have found that those who eat a diet higher in sugar and saturated fat and lower in dietary fiber, have been found to get less deep restorative sleep. All of this undoubtedly has a role in health. Inadequate sleep is linked to higher risk of chronic disease, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the younger you are the more sleep you need, though the ideal amount of sleep can vary from each person. Teenagers 14-17 years old generally need 8-10 hours, adults 18-64 years old should get between 7-9 hours, and older adults 65 years and older need 7-8 hours of sleep.
There are a few things you can do to ensure you get adequate, quality sleep. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine at least 4-6 hours before going to bed. Also, try to go to bed at the same time every day, even on weekends. When going to bed, create a sleep routine so your body knows it’s time to wind down and relax. This may be taking a bath, reading a book or journaling. Just make sure to disconnect from the television, smartphone or other screens at least a half hour before bedtime; blue light blocks melatonin, a hormone that makes you sleepy. Getting exercise each day can improve sleep, however, it’s important to avoid exercising within one hour before bed. The body needs time to allow its temperature to cool down. If you have difficulty “shutting your brain off” while lying in bed, try writing your thoughts down or making a list of the things you need to do before attempting to sleep. Make sleep a priority; it’s important for your health!
Sleep Foundation. sleepfoundation.org
St-Onge, M. P., Mikic, A., & Pietrolungo, C. E. (2016). Effects of Diet on Sleep Quality. Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.), 7(5), 938–949. https://doi.org/10.3945/an.116.012336
Taheri, S., Lin, L., Austin, D., Young, T., & Mignot, E. (2004). Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin, elevated ghrelin, and increased body mass index. PLoS medicine, 1(3), e62. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0010062
Smith is nutrition and wellness educator for the University of Illinois Extension, McLean County. Contact her at 309-663-8306.