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A new study found how certain dietary habits could influence the quality of your sleep.

A new study found how certain dietary habits could influence the quality of your sleep.

The types of food you eat could affect your quality of sleep, according to a new study from the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. A team of researchers led by Dr. Marie-Pierre St-Onge from the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University Medical Center in New York found that diets low in fiber but high in saturated fat and sugar are associated with lighter, less effective sleep.

The researchers observed a group of 26 normal-weight adults from 30 to 45 years old who did not have any reported sleep issues for a period of five nights in a sleep lab. The participants spent 9 hours, from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., in bed each night and were monitored for sleep data through polysomnography. Their diets were controlled through the first four days and self-selected on the fifth. To determine how these diets affected their sleep, the researchers used linear regression, finding that while sleep duration did not differentiate, quality did.

The analysis revealed that consuming more fiber meant experiencing a deeper sleep, while saturated fats were associated with more disturbances throughout the night. The results led the researchers to recommend dietary adjustments to improve sleep issues.

"Our message is that a diet high in fiber and low in saturated fat and sugar is associated with better sleep patterns," St-Onge told Medscape Medical News. "For a good night's sleep we recommend increasing fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and eating less processed foods. That is a healthy diet in many other ways too, particularly in terms of cardiovascular risk, so this is another reason to eat the right things."

Given how little information exists on the relationship between diet and sleep, this new study provides significant insight. St-Onge told Medscape that the original intent of the study was to determine whether or not sleep is a causal factor in obesity. Instead, it exposed a vicious cycle of poor diet influencing sleep and vice versa. While St-Onge and her colleagues have yet to identify the exact cause, they hypothesize that high carbohydrate intake delays circadian rhythms and inhibits melatonin secretion, which delays sleep.

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