New research has found that poor sleep increases the risk of heart disease in women. It also found that bad diets and bad sleep go hand-in-hand.
A study by Columbia University Irving Medical found that women who sleep poorly consume more calories and have a lower quality diet, which in turn increases cardiovascular disease risk.
Researchers studied a group of 495 women from diverse ethnic backgrounds and ages from 20 to 76. The comprehensive study looked at sleep quality, the time it took to fall asleep, and insomnia. It also looked at typical dietary intake, allowing researchers to identify patterns. This study went further than previous research, which had focused only on the link between diet and nutrients in regard to diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
The study reported a series of key findings including:
- Women with poor sleep quality had more sugars associated with obesity and diabetes in their diet.
- Women who took longer to fall asleep consumed more calories as well as more food when measured by weight.
- Women with insomnia categorised as severe ate more food overall and fewer ‘healthy’ fats within that, compared to their cohort with more mild insomnia.
Over their lifetime, women are more likely to suffer with poor sleep due to children and family responsibilities, and because of hormone fluctuations such as pregnancy and menopause. When coupled with these findings, it suggests that improving sleep quality and length may in fact be a preventative measure to reduce risk of heart disease and obesity in women.
The study leaves one question unanswered: what comes first, poor sleep or poor eating? Do women with poor sleep have more hunger hormones and are therefore eating greater quantities of food in order to feel satisfied? Or is poor diet the original contributing factor in their poor sleep quality, which is then leading to an increased production of hunger hormone and therefore overeating?
More studies will be required to get to the bottom of this but for now, let’s get some rest.