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Certain nutrients associated with different sleep patterns study

Margaret Jack  By Margaret Jack   |   Posted in Sleep Research   |   Last updated: Friday 8th February 2013

For the first time a new study has found that certain nutrients could play an underlying role in short and long sleep duration and the people that eat a large variety of foods are more likely to have a better sleep pattern.

The researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania analysed data from the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey which asked questions about demographic, socioeconomic, dietary, and health. The researchers used the questions regarding how much sleep participants were getting each night and the daily dietary intake information for each person. The patterns were broken into: "Very Short'' (<5 hours per night), ''Short'' (5-6 hours per night), ''Standard' (7-8 hours per night), and ''Long'' (9 hours or more per night). They then analysed whether there were any similarities between the amount of sleep the participants were getting and the nutrients they were eating.

The study found that total calorific intake varied across the different groups; Short sleepers consumed the most calories, followed by normal sleepers, very short sleepers, then finally long sleepers. The variety of food intake was highest for normal sleepers and lowest at very short sleepers. Differences were found across the groups for many types of nutrients such as proteins, vitamins and minerals and carbohydrates.

After careful analysis the team found that there were a number of dietary differences for each of the sleep groups. Very short sleeper was associated with less intake of tap water, lycopene – found in red and orange coloured foods – and carbohydrates. Short sleeper was associated with less vitamin C, tap water, selenium – found in nuts, meat and shellfish – and more lutein/zeaxanthin – found in leafy green vegetables. Long sleep was associated with less intake of theobromine – found in chocolate and tea –
Dodecanoic acid – a saturated fat – Carbohydrates, choline – found in eggs and fatty meats – and more alcohol.

The conclusion made was that people who sleep 7-8 hours each night differ in terms of their diet, compared to people who sleep less or more and short and long sleep is associated with lower food variety. The next step for the research team is to find out if people change their diet are they are also able to change their overall sleep pattern? This is important to find out because we know that short sleep duration is linked to weight gain and obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease and long sleep is also associated with negative health consequences. If an ideal mix of nutrients and calories are pinpointed to promote healthy sleep, the healthcare community has the potential to make a major dent in obesity and other risk factors.

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