Sleep Early, Eat Healthy

Quality sleep and healthy eating are two of the most important aspects of overall well-being. A recent study has shed new insight into the relationship between sleep patterns and eating habits. Those that regularly go to bed late and sleep in late are at a greater risk of eating more and of eating less healthy foods – placing them at an increased risk of gaining weight.

Completed by Northwestern University and published in Obesity, the study compared the eating habits of a group of late sleepers and a group of regular sleepers. Both groups slept for approximately the same duration (7 hours), however their sleep schedules differed.  Late sleepers went to bed at an average time of 3:45 a.m. and woke up by 10:45 a.m. They ate breakfast at 12 noon, lunch at 2:30 p.m, dinner at 8:15 p.m, and ate an additional meal around 10 p.m. The regular sleep-schedule participants woke up by 8 a.m, ate breakfast by 9 a.m, lunch at 1 p.m, dinner at 7 p.m, a late snack at 8:30 p.m, and were asleep by 12:30 a.m.

The study found that late sleepers consumed an average of 248 more calories per day, twice as much fast food and only half the amount of fruits and vegetables as those with an earlier sleep schedule.

The study demonstrates that good sleep and healthy eating choices go hand-in-hand. Dr. Phyllis Zee, medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Feinberg and Northwestern Memorial Hospital, explained that eating when the body expects to be sleeping may disturb our circadian rhythms. She also highlighted how late sleepers are not only at increased risk for obesity, but also cardiovascular, cerebrovascular and gastrointestinal disorders.

Of course, certain individuals such as shift workers may have to cope with a late sleep schedule. The findings of this study may be useful to keep in mind, in addition to following some basic sleep health tips:

  •  Establish a regular sleep cycle -even on weekends
  • Avoid excess alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine
  • Have a wind-down period before bedtime
  • If your must eat a bedtime snack, choose tryptophan-rich foods (i.e. dairy products, bananas, oats, honey) and complex carbohydrates (bread, crackers, and cereal)