How are sleep and good nutrition linked?

Dr Dominque Condo, a lecturer in nutrition and dietetics, Accredited Practising Dietitian and Accredited Sports Dietitian at Geelong Cats football club, talks about the latest research for Sleep Awareness Week.

Dr Condo, along with colleagues at Deakin University, Associate Professor Brad Aisbett and Dr Severine Lamon, reviewed the evidence linking the potential effects of sleep deprivation on skeletal muscle health.

Sleep - person on couch

Disrupted sleep patterns are very common in today’s society, with about one in four people in the workforce having irregular working shifts. Skeletal muscle is the largest organ in the body, being a fundamental component of metabolic health. The effects of short term sleep deprivation on dietary intake and hormonal balance and the duration of these changes are also of major interest.  As this type of sleep deprivation is often seen in elite athletes, especially around competition, there is increasing interest in how this may influence metabolic health and the nutritional choices athletes make, potentially influencing performance outcomes.

Dietary consequences of sleep deprivation

Sleep deprivation can lead to a higher intake of refined carbohydrates, total energy and/or fat, mainly derived from an increase in snacking. The mechanisms explaining this are still unclear, however, they may be associated with changes in appetite regulating hormones.

Sleep deprivation is also shown to influence food preference, with previous research showing a greater response in the food rewards sections of the brain. These changes to food intake result in a reduced nutritional quality and may influence metabolic and skeletal muscle health.

Further investigation is needed in this important area, as the world today has different demands and challenges, resulting in time restraints that often impact sleep. Associate Professor Aisbett and his team are currently conducting a sleep deprivation study at Deakin University to further answer some of these questions.

Healthy eating tips

In Sleep Awareness Week, we challenge you to consider your sleeping habits and the potential effect this may have on the food you choose and crave.

Top tips and recommendations for healthy eating:

  • Try to recommence a normal eating pattern following restricted sleep
  • Include regular and consistent meals
  • Include meals high in protein – this will help limit sweet cravings and will optimise skeletal muscle health.

Dr Dominique Condo

Lecturer In Nutritional Science, School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University

Category list: Healthy Eating Tips

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