Are you EATING a good night’s sleep?

By Max Plasencia, Lifestyle Editor

If you find yourself tossing and turning at night, struggling to fall (or stay asleep) you may need to re-consider your eating habits before bedtime. Several studies have found that eating less fiber, more saturated fat and more sugar is associated with lighter and more disrupted sleep.

The studies are showing that greater fiber intake results in more time spent in a state of deep, slow wave sleep. In contrast, a higher percentage of energy from saturated fat give way to less slow wave sleep.  Greater sugar intake is also associated with more arousals during sleep.  And here’s the kicker – When a late evening meal combines both saturated fat and sugar, it is like a double whammy!

Fat slows down the digestion of all foods so a high fat meal will spend more time sitting in your stomach, taking longer to digest, which may disrupt the sleep process.  A high sugar meal will create an insulin spike that will boost energy and prevent you from relaxing.  Fiber on the other hand has the complete opposite effect in that it speeds up digestion and regulates blood sugar levels.

These findings suggest that diet quality influences sleep quality and that even a single day of greater fat intake and lower fiber could influence sleep parameters.

During one study (cited below) participants fell asleep faster after eating meals which were lower in saturated fat and higher in protein.  It took participants an average of 29 minutes to fall asleep after consuming foods high in saturated fats and sugars, but only 17 minutes to fall asleep after eating higher protein and fiber rich meals.

The finding that diet can influence sleep has tremendous health implications, given the increasing recognition of the role of sleep in the development of chronic disorders such as hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Two of the most important aspects of health are sleep and nutrition…….and make no mistake about it, these two things have a direct impact on each other.  Check back to the blog soon for more lifestyle info and feel free to drop me a note anytime (contact info above).


Marie-Pierre St-Onge, PhD1; Amy Roberts, PhD2; Ari Shechter, PhD1; Arindam Roy Choudhury, PhD3

1New York Obesity Research Center and Institute of Human Nutrition, College of Physicians & Surgeons, Columbia University, New York, NY; 2New York Obesity Research Center, St. Luke’s/Roosevelt Hospital, New York, NY; 3Department of Biostatistics, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY

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