Healthy eating and regular, good quality sleep are vital aspects that make up a healthful life. Science shows that these two things might be more closely connected than we thought. It’s easy to imagine how bad sleep habits might lead to bad eating habits; you didn’t get enough sleep the night before, so you want something easy to eat instead of cooking that healthy breakfast that you know you should cook but can’t find the motivation for.
A study of 495 women ranging from ages 20 to 76 analyzed sleep patterns and dietary habits and found some concerning results. Not only do women suffering from sleep issues like insomnia make worse food choices, but bad sleep quality, in general, was found to be correlated with overeating, creating a recipe for significant health risks down the line like obesity and diabetes.
The reasoning for why this link exists is less clear. The researchers theorized that poor quality sleep might mess with the important signals our bodies deliver to signal fullness or hunger to our brains. If the cues for when to eat and how much to eat are thrown off when our sleep is subpar, the results that indicate poor sleep is linked to poor food choices could be explained. Alternatively, the relationship could be flipped with poor food choices causing poor sleep. For example, eating a huge meal before bed puts our digestive system to work when it should rest with other parts of our bodies.
Whichever direction the correlation goes, one thing is for sure — you need both quality sleep and quality food to stay healthy, regardless of which one comes first. Since researchers can’t yet discern which factor causes what, it’s best to play it safe (and healthy) by attempting to improve both your diet and sleeping patterns at the same time.