A diet with a sufficient amount of fruits and vegetables may contribute to a healthy sleeping pattern. English nutritional scientists at the University of Leeds report this in BMJ Open. Their epidemiological study suggests that sleep quantity increases as you consume more fruits and vegetables on a daily basis.
The researchers used data from 1612 Britons aged 19-65, which had been collected in the National Diet and Nutrition Survey. The researchers determined, among other things, how many hours the study participants slept.
Both the study participants who didn’t sleep not enough hours and the study participants with an abnormally large amount of sleeping hours reported a lower intake of fruit and vegetables than the study participants with a healthy and recommended amount of sleep. Don’t pay too much attention to the precise amounts of fruit and vegetables: as a whole, the study population had a miserable diet.
With this kind of research it is always the question how the association should be interpreted. Do fruits and vegetables ensure a healthy sleep? Or do healthy people, who have a healthy sleeping pattern, ensure that they get enough fruit and vegetables?
Analyses of the composition of the blood of the study subjects seem to indicate that the interpretation might be correct. The more carotenoids and vitamin C – constituents of vegetables and fruit – were in the blood of the study participants, the more hours of sleep they reported. Particularly high levels were not associated with less sleep.
“Sleep duration among UK adults has been declining recently with 70% of UK adults sleeping less than 7 hours/night according to the Sleep Council”, write the researchers. “Additionally, the intake of fruit and vegetables is decreasing among UK adults with only 30% of them meeting the 5-a-day recommendation according to the National Diet and Nutrition Survey results provided by Public Health England.”
“If the results of this study were confirmed in prospective and interventional studies, this would highlight the importance of translating the scientific evidence focusing on the relationship between sleep and diet into practical messages that can help the public to prevent chronic diseases.”
“This would include making different populations aware of the relationship between sleep and diet by providing more information on sleep in national dietary guidelines to enhance healthy lifestyle recommendations.”
“In addition, this information can be incorporated in hospitals to educate healthcare professionals, weight-loss programmes and other programmes targeting improvement in overall health. This information is also essential for those caring for at risk groups such as the elderly and those with chronic diseases.”
BMJ Open 2018;8:e020810.