In Dietary, Health, Lifestyle

The answer to eating well could lie in our beds!

Be honest – are you getting your 40 winks each night? Whether you stay up late watching TV or can’t stand the thought of an early night, it could be time to change your ways. Failing to hit the hay when you really should could be having a bigger impact on your health than you realise.

The truth of the matter is that we all know we should be getting more sleep yet few of us take control of this aspect of our lives. In the past, research has shown that poor sleep is linked to lower brain functions and a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. However, there could be another area which suffers when you deprive your body of much-needed rest.

When you’re trying to eat well and live an active lifestyle, not getting enough sleep could be more dangerous than you expect. Taking the time to get the rest that you need each night may seem like a small thing but it has a big impact on your health. It should be the foundation of your lifestyle. Let’s face it, when you get it right, everything else, including your diet, can easily fall into place.

Poor sleep equals a poor diet

The latest research from King’s College London suggests that the key to solving your dietary woes could be getting more sleep. Researchers ran a randomised controlled trial, in which they looked at boosting the amount adults slept and how that affected their day-to-day diet. The participants were those who were currently sleeping less than the recommended nightly minimum of seven hours.

“Sleep duration and quality is an area of increasing public health concern and has been linked as a risk factor for various conditions. We have shown that sleep habits can be changed with relative ease in healthy adults using a personalised approach,” explains lead researcher, Haya Al-Khatib, from the Department of Nutritional Sciences.

After taking measures to help each of the participants improve the amount of sleep they got each got, there were noticeable changes in their diet. Participants who got more sleep tended to consume around 10g less sugar each day. As though that weren’t enough, the participants also ended up eating fewer carbohydrates.

The evidence suggests that sleeping more (up to the recommended limit) each night could mean that you make healthier food choices during the day. The theory is that tiredness affects your ability to choose snacks and dishes that are better for your health. Perhaps an underlying reason for this is that – when you’re tired – you’re likely to reach for comfort food or things that give you a burst of energy, such as high-sugar snacks.

“Our results also suggest that increasing time in bed for an hour or so longer may lead to healthier food choices,” says Haya Al-Khatib. “This further strengthens the link between short sleep and poorer quality diets that has already been observed by previous studies.”

More research is needed

While this research is relatively new, experts have recommended that there should be more in the area so that we can fully understand the importance of sleep. One theory suggests that getting poor sleep could have a direct impact on other health concerns. As it affects people’s diet, it may also have a knock-on effect on their general health too.

“We hope to investigate this finding further with longer-term studies examining nutrient intake and continued adherence to sleep extension behaviours in more detail,” says  Haya Al-Khatib. “Especially in populations at risk of obesity or cardiovascular disease.”

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