A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association on Monday found that women who suffered from a lack of good-quality sleep had a higher tendency to consume sugar and unhealthy fats, reported CNN.
The study followed nearly 500 women between the ages of 20 and 76 who participated in the AHA Go Red for Women program, a yearlong study that examined sleep patterns and cardiovascular risk. The participants recorded how much sleep they got, the quality of their sleep, and their food intake. They were asked how often they ate certain types of foods and the size of the portion they consumed.
The average sleep time among the women was fewer than seven hours, with one-third of them suffering from poor sleep or insomnia. In addition, women who didn’t sleep well or didn’t sleep enough consumed an average of 500 to 800 more calories per day, specifically going overboard on foods with high sugar, fat, and caffeine content. They also consistently failed to meet guidelines for grains and fiber intake. Women who slept less were found to eat less dairy, while protein and carbohydrate intakes were not factored into the study.
Researchers believe the findings are important because women in particular are at a high risk for obesity and cardiovascular disease, in addition to other health issues. Both can be driven by high caloric intake, especially foods high in sugar and unhealthy fats.
Dr. Brooke Aggarwal, lead author of the study and assistant professor of medical sciences at Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, commented on the results of the study.
“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. 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.”
Research has also found that overeating is linked to poor-quality sleep because a lack of sleep can stimulate hunger while also suppressing hormones that signal fullness. Insomnia can also influence the hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that regulates food intake. A diet high in fats and sugars can cause increased and abnormal activity in this part of the brain, which in turn can lead to more cravings.
The researchers stress the importance of getting enough good-quality sleep to ensure a balanced lifestyle overall. A healthier diet can improve sleep quality, while an adequate amount of shuteye can reduce cravings and the desire to overeat.