Women who took part in the research were more likely to eat additional food and have a lower-quality diet after sleeping badly, which could, in turn, increase their risk of developing cardiovascular disease. That’s according to the authors of the paper, which was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
The research involved 495 women taking part in the American Heart Association (AMA) Go Red for Women cohort study, who provided information about their sleep patterns and eating habits. The participants were aged between 20 to 76 years old, and 61 percent were a member of a racial or ethnic minority group.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises adults to get at least seven hours of sleep per night. But in the study, over a third had poor sleep or some insomnia, and 27.5 percent slept for seven hours or less per night.
On average, participants ate more than the recommended saturated fat intake and added sugars, but didn’t meet recommendations for whole grains, fiber and dairy intake. Women who had poor sleep quality were more likely to eat added food, as well as items containing added sugars that are linked to chronic conditions like type 2 diabetes and obesity. Those who slept well were more likely to eat unsaturated fats, with those with poor sleep less likely.
When eaten in moderation and in place of saturated and trans fats, unsaturated fats are thought to improve blood cholesterol levels, according to the AMA. Polyunsaturated fatty acids, for instance, are associated with a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
In past studies, poor sleep has been linked to people eating more confectionery and less low energy-dense fruits and vegetables, the authors wrote. Insomnia, meanwhile, is associated with eating more, including fat and saturated fat, and lower intakes of protein, fiber and vegetables.
Senior author Brooke Aggarwal, assistant professor of medical sciences at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, said in a statement: “Women are particularly prone to sleep disturbances across the life span, because they often shoulder the responsibilities of caring for children and family and, later, because of menopausal hormones.
“Our interpretation is that women with poor-quality sleep could be overeating during subsequent meals and making more unhealthy food choices,” she said.
Lead author Faris Zuraikat, postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, commented in a statement: “Poor sleep quality may lead to excessive food and calorie intake by stimulating hunger signals or suppressing signals of fullness.
“Fullness is largely affected by the weight or volume of food consumed, and it could be that women with insomnia consume a greater amount of food in an effort to feel full.
Zuraikat went on: “However, it’s also possible that poor diet has a negative impact on women’s sleep quality. Eating more could also cause gastrointestinal discomfort, for instance, making it harder to fall asleep or remain asleep.”
Aggarwal added: “Given that poor diet and overeating may lead to obesity—a well-established risk factor for heart disease—future studies should test whether therapies that improve sleep quality can promote cardiometabolic health in women.”