What you eat may be associated with how you sleep. In a Swedish EpiHealth cohort study, almost 24,000 adults completed an Internet-based questionnaire that assessed sleep duration and quality in relation to diet. Short sleep duration (defined as less than 6 hours per night) and poor sleep quality were associated with low adherence to either a Mediterranean Diet or Healthy Nordic Food Index eating pattern. In keeping with this finding, Dr. Gupta recommends a list of foods to his patients who struggle with insomnia or are dissatisfied with their sleep quality.
Yet the relationship between food and sleep is complex, as when we eat and sleep is just as important as how. In a study of 169 children aged 6-10 years old, it was found that children who slept and ate on a late schedule were more likely to be obese when compared with children who did both on an early schedule. Specifically, children who ate dinner after 7pm and went to sleep after 8:45pm were more likely to have higher BMIs. Obesity in childhood is linked to obesity later in life, and places a child at greater risk for developing chronic diseases and psychological distress.
Research has pointed to consistently adequate sleep and a balanced and varied diet as the foundations of long term health. It appears that the relationship between food and sleep is symbiotic; healthy eating may promote quality sleep, and being well rested may make it easier for us to make better food choices. Establishing these healthy behaviors in childhood is important to set ourselves up to live long, healthy and well rested lives.