What you eat could decide when you sleep, study shows connection between nutrient intake and sleep

Are you trying to become an early riser? You may want to check your diet as scientists say what you eat could decide the timing of your sleep.

There are several studies on ways to improve sleep since adequate sleep not only provides rest and recovery but also protects people from many long-term health problems such as stress, heart problems and diabetes.

In a new study involving a group of 23 female college athletes, researchers assessed how sleep time is affected by their nutrient intake. The results suggest that athletes who consumed the most carbohydrates and vitamins B12 and C went to sleep earlier and woke up earlier than those who consumed the least amount of these nutrients.

Researchers say it may be because these nutrients aid in the synthesis of vital hormones that regulate sleep, including serotonin and melatonin.

“For athletes, success is measured not only by readiness to perform, but also by resilience on and off the field,” said Lauren Rentz, first author of the study and a doctoral candidate at West Virginia University. “We know that sleep helps the body heal from daily physical and mental stress and influences future physical and mental performance. The relationship between sleep and nutrient intake has not been extensively studied in high-performance athletes, who consistently experience large amount of stress.”

Athletes wore smart rings that tracked their sleep for 31 consecutive nights during the racing season. Participants’ dietary intake was also recorded on the final three days of the assessment.

Researchers have found strong associations between nutrient consumption and sleep times. However, they were unable to find links to sleep duration as most of the participants slept an average of seven to eight hours a night.

The study found that about half of the athletes were deficient in protein, vitamins A and K, and nearly all failed to consume the recommended amounts of vitamin D and carbohydrates.

“The use of wearable technology has become very popular among athletes and our study shows how wearable data can be used by professionals or athletes themselves to become more in tune with their health. Wearables are great for capturing the the body’s response to physiological stressors without adding more stress,” Rentz said.

The study was presented at the American Physiology Summit, the flagship annual meeting of the American Physiological Society (APS), in Long Beach, California, last weekend.

The researchers caution that the study should not be interpreted as cause and effect, but may indicate how various aspects of health may simultaneously contribute to performance and recovery potential in athletes.

The next step in the research will be to evaluate similar health patterns in a larger group of athletes to understand how these patterns may influence their success.

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Thanks to research, we now know that a good mattress is important in helping us maximize the restorative benefits of sleep.
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