If you find yourself eating too much added sugar and unhealthy fats, it might be because you’re not getting enough sleep, according to a study published Monday in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
Researchers from Columbia University’s Irving Medical Center examined the associations between measures of sleep quality and the dietary patterns of nearly 500 women who participated in the AHA Go Red for Women program, a year-long study of sleep patterns and cardiovascular risk in women.
What they found was that the poorer their quality of sleep, and the less they slept, the more the women consumed added sugars, saturated fats and caffeine.
According to the researchers, the findings are important because women are at high risk for obesity and sleep disorders, which can both be driven by a high intake of food. Foods high in added sugars and unhealthy fats are also linked to health conditions and diseases, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
“In our modern society, we oftentimes work late, we eat our meals late and sometimes sleep is kind of put by the wayside in terms of how important it is to our overall healthy lifestyle,” said Dr. Brooke Aggarwal, senior author of the study and assistant professor of medical sciences at Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.
“Our study really highlights the importance of good, quality sleep for the management of body weight as well as potentially preventing heart disease among women.”
Less sleep means more unhealthy food
Nearly 500 women between the ages of 20 and 76 were examined for their sleep patterns and the quality and quantity of their food intake.
Participants self-reported how they were sleeping and eating using questionnaires. They were asked how frequently each item was consumed over the past year in addition to how much they usually ate according to portion size guidelines.
Over a third of the women studied had poor sleep quality or some level of insomnia. Nearly 30% slept less than seven hours per night and nearly 25% slept less than seven hours per night but also struggled with insomnia. The average sleep time among all the women was less than seven hours.