Researchers from Columbia University Irving Medical Center have found that women who don’t sleep well leading tend to have a lower quality diet and thus an increased risk of heart disease and obesity.
Although previous studies have shown that people who get less sleep are more likely become obese and develop type 2 diabetes and heart disease due to dietary choices, these studies tended to be narrow in focus, usually only looking at specific foods or measuring sleep duration, as opposed to sleep quality.
Thus, for this new study, researchers wanted to get a more comprehensive outlook on how these factors affected cardiovascular disease risk in women by investigating the quality of both their diets and their sleep. For their study, they recruited 495 women aged between 20 and 76 and measured their sleep quality, the amount of time it took them to fall asleep, as well as their levels of insomnia. Alongside this, they collected data on the women’s diets- particularly looking at the types and quantities of food they consumed throughout the year.
In the end, the researchers found that those with overall worse sleep quality tended to consume more added sugars, something associated with a higher risk for obesity and diabetes. They also found that women who took longer to fall asleep tended to have a higher caloric intake, and that women with severe insomnia tended to consume more food and fewer unsaturated fats than women with less insomnia.
Faris Zuraikat, lead author of the study said, “Poor sleep quality may lead to excessive food and calorie intake by stimulating hunger signals or suppressing signals of fullness...Fullness is largely affected by the weight or volume of food consumed, and it could be that women with insomnia consume a greater amount of food in an effort to feel full.”
He added that it’s possible that eating a poor diet may also negatively affect women's sleep quality more directly by causing gastrointestinal discomfort, thus making it harder to both fall and remain asleep. He added, “Given that poor diet and overeating may lead to obesity -- a well-established risk factor for heart disease -- future studies should test whether therapies that improve sleep quality can promote cardiometabolic health in women.”