More fibre in the diet was associated with the time we spend in deep, slow wave sleep; whereas high saturated fats in our diet predicted less slow wave sleep, and high sugar caused us to wake more often during the night.
People who ate a diet that was lower in saturated fats and higher in proteins, as selected by a nutritionist for this study, tended to fall asleep faster
What surprised researchers is that even one day of bad eating can affect the quality of our sleep, and therefore diet impacts us in more ways that we previously knew.
This study was small, however, involving only 26 participants over a 5 day period in a sleep lab; taking participants out of their normal sleeping environment could have an impact upon the results. This study would need to be repeated on more participants over longer periods of time, preferably as a cross-over trial to see if the effects were seen when the diets were reversed. However, as a small experiment, it does give interesting results and provides more evidence that healthy eating is important, as poor sleep is associated with higher stress, lower concentration and ability to organise thoughts, higher blood pressure and, of course, all of this impacts our heart health too.
A high fibre diet is one that is rich in whole grains, pulses (beans and lentils), fruit and vegetables. A diet low in saturated fats has less dairy (such as cheese, full fat milk, cream, butter, ghee), baked goods (like pies, pastries, cakes and biscuits), fatty cuts of meat, and tropical oils like coconut oil or palm oil.
You can read the study news release here: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2016-01/aaos-sst_1011416.php
Or read the full study:
St-Onge MP, Roberts A, Shechter A, Choudhury AR. Fiber and saturated fat are associated with sleep arousals and slow wave sleep. J Clin Sleep Med 2016;12(1):19–24.
Seb is a writer and blogger of food and nutrition. He holds a bachelors and a masters degree in nutrition science, and has studied sports and exercise nutrition at postgraduate level. He specialises in plant-based nutrition and believes passionately that we can all live with a little less meat. He writes for www.veggieandspice.com and www.itsaboutnutrition.com