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How Sleep Improves Diet

Research reveals how going light on sleep can affect diet.

Person well rested to show how sleep improves diet

We know that getting enough shut-eye is critical to performing our best in day-to-day tasks. Now, according to a new study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, there is one more good reason to
prioritize it: sleep improves diet.

Researchers from Ohio State University analyzed data from nearly 20,000 U.S. adults (ages 20–60) who took part in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2007 to 2018. Participants recorded how much they slept during the workweek, as well as what they ate and when. They were split up into two groups: those who were getting more than 7 hours of sleep nightly and those who were getting less.

Almost all of the participants snacked during the day, but those who failed to get enough sleep tended to snack more often than those who were better sleepers, and the calories typically hailed from options with little nutritional
value (e.g., soft drinks, chips, baked goods, etc.). With more hours out of bed comes more time for snacking, especially in the evening, and poor sleep habits may upset hunger regulating hormones, leading to more snack attacks.

A separate investigation on how sleep improves diet in the Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology determined that adults who had better sleep quality (better physiological recovery during sleep) also had a better overall diet quality and lower alcohol consumption than those who did not typically get the type of sleep the body needs to recover. So we kind of hope reading this column makes you sleepy!

See also: The Connection Between Sleep and Gut Health

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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