Men who consume high-fat diets are far likelier to feel sleepy during the day and sleep poorly at night, researchers at University of Adelaide, Australia report.
The team studied the dietary habits of 1800 Australian men aged 35-80 over a 12 months period.
“After adjusting for other demographic and lifestyle factors, and chronic diseases, we found that those who consumed the highest fat intake were more likely to experience excessive daytime sleepiness,” says study author and University of Adelaide PhD student Yingting Cao, who is also based at SAHMRI (South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute).
“This has significant implications for alertness and concentration, which would be of particular concern to workers,” Cao says. “High fat intake was also strongly associated with sleep apnea.”
Of the men who enjoyed a high-fat diet, 41 percent reported daytime sleepiness, while 47 percent had problems sleeping. About 54 percent had mild-to-moderate sleep apnea — a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing or instances of shallow breathing during sleep — and 25 percent had moderate-to-severe sleep apnea.
“Poor sleep and feeling sleepy during the day means you have less energy, but this in turn is known to increase people’s cravings for high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods, which is then associated with poor sleep outcomes. So the poor diet-and-sleep pattern can become a vicious cycle,” Cao says.
“The simple message is a commonsense one, but we need more people to pay attention to it: we need to eat better; a good sleep the night before is best.”
Previously, the Institute of Human Nutrition at Columbia University Medical Center in New York reached similar conclusions. Researchers found eating less fiber, more saturated fat and more sugar is associated with lighter, less restorative, and more disrupted sleep. Elsewhere, researchers at the Columbia University Medical Center found higher-fat, lower fiber diets led to poorer sleep in only a couple of nights.
The findings suggest that if you have problems sleeping, then it’s worth changing your diet for a couple of weeks. It might do wonders.