There's more to getting a solid night's sleep than just the number of hours you clock on the pillow. The quality of sleep matters just as much, and according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, your diet could be helping (or hurting!).
Researchers at Columbia University observed 26 people in a sleep lab for one day to see how fiber, sugar, and saturated fat affected their sleep quality. Results showed that eating less fiber, and more sugar and saturated fat throughout the day made for a poor night's sleep.
Typically, there's a balance of light, easily disrupted sleep, and deeper "slow-wave sleep" each night. Both are part of a normal sleep cycle, but it's the second, deeper kind that does all the restoration work necessary to make sure you're fresh and rested for the day ahead. You want it. You need it.
The study concluded that the more energy you get from saturated fat and sugar, the less slow-wave sleep you clock, and the more likely you are to wake up in the middle of the night. The nutrients you eat impact certain neurotransmitters that are responsible for regulating your rest. "Sugar and fat may interfere with the brain’s production of serotonin, which you need for sleep," says Marie-Pierre St-Onge, Ph.D., lead author on the study.
However, diets that are generally higher in fiber predicted a greater amount of deep sleep throughout the night. Oh hey, beauty rest. The researchers aren't sure exactly how fiber works its magic, but it may be linked to the glycemic index, according to St-Onge. (This is the rate at which your body breaks down carbs and transforms them into sugar.)
More importantly, though the sample size was small, it only took researchers one day to notice the effects eating had on snooze quality. It's fair to say pounding mozzarella sticks and sugary drinks at happy hour may not be in your best interest overall, and could tank your chances for a full night's rest later. Reach for foods like berries and dark leafy greens throughout the day instead, and reap the rewards in your sleep.