All Those Calories Are Affecting How We Sleep
February 14, 2013

All Those Calories Are Affecting How We Sleep

Health is complicated. More specifically, being healthy is complicated. It requires attention to physical health, exercise, diet, stress, mental health, and sleep patterns, just to name a few focus points of a healthy lifestyle. Just exercising does not make a healthy lifestyle, nor does simply eating healthy. Each is just one step in a complicated balance for health.

For years, doctors, nutritionists, and scientists have known that good sleep can affect dieting. For instance, In September 2012, redOrbit reported about the growing evidence supporting the idea that a lack of sleep enhances hunger impulses, increases hormone levels, and causes us to eat more. Thus, if we are dieting, the more sleep we get, the more fat we lose.

However, one recent study has linked our eating habits to our amount of sleep. CNN Health recently posted about this study. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine found that people in different sleep categories had distinct diet patterns.

The study defined four sleep patterns. First, people with less than five hours of sleep a night were categorized as very short sleep patterns. Those with five to six hours a night were short sleep while those with seven to eight had standard sleep, and, finally, those with nine or more hours fell into the long sleep category.

To find out if a relationship existed between these categories and eating habits, “researchers studied data from the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) involving 4,548 people. They looked at how much sleep the participants reported getting each night, as well as a very detailed report of their daily diet.”

What they found was really no surprise; it’s just that no one has really studied this side of health before. As it were, different sleep categories had distinct diets connected to them. In order of most consumed calories to least: short sleepers, normal sleepers, very short sleepers, and long sleepers. However, that was not all the study found.

The study also found that the different categories corresponded to food variety. The highest food variety was found in normal sleepers while very short sleepers had the least food variety. A varied diet tends to have a more balanced diet, which means that it marks good health.

Researchers found even more variety. Very short sleepers drank less tap water and ate fewer carbs and lycopene (a nutrient found in red- and orange-colored fruits and veggies). Lycopene is high in cancer-fighting antioxidants.

Short sleepers ate less vitamin C and selenium and drank less water. On the other hand, they ate more lutein, which is found in green, leafy vegetables.

Long sleepers drank more alcohol, but consumed less theobromine, saturated fats, and choline.

These correlations really do not answer many questions other than do any correlations exist between what we eat and how we sleep. Now, scientists and researchers can start studies to better understand these findings.

The CNN article explained: “there is the potential that scientists could one day determine the right mix of calories and nutrients to promote better sleep, which could become a low-cost strategy to curb obesity and heart disease.”

It would be so nice if being healthy was easy. But it’s not, so we must understand the connections between the different areas of health. If we want to be healthy, we must consider more than just exercise and eating habits. Sleep is just another element of the health equation.

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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