More fiber may help you curb exhaustion and unhealthy snacking

Nutrition

By pH health care professionals

Most people know that you’re not supposed to eat a heavy meal before bed. That can cause heartburn and poor sleep quality. But some researchers wanted to find out what the effects of a short-term diet change could be on sleep.

At the New York Obesity Research Center at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital, investigators had a small group of adults (no heavy caffeine users, shift workers or people with sleep issues) spend six days staying in the hospital. For the first four days, they ate a controlled diet prescribed by the researchers. For the last two days, they could eat whatever they wanted. The subjects’ hormones, including leptin, insulin, ghrelin, PYY, adiponectin and GLP-1 (all important in metabolism, energy and appetite), were measured daily. On the fifth day, subjects had functional MRI scans taken of their brains, to associate brain activity with the motivation to eat. Their sleep was monitored by sleep study equipment and they were allowed to sleep only four hours per night. The whole study was repeated with the subjects sleeping their normal amount, seven to nine hours per night.

As you can guess, when people were allowed to eat whatever they wanted, they had poorer quality sleep, taking a longer time to fall asleep and with less slow-wave sleep (take note, midnight ice cream eaters). High-saturated-fat foods seemed to harm slow-wave sleep as well. Sugar and carbs increased awakenings throughout the night.

For a quick review: 

  • Stage 1 sleep is light sleep, with the sudden jerky movements familiar to many.
  • Stage 2 sleep occurs when the eyes stop moving and brain waves slow down, just like in
    meditation.
  • Stages 3 and 4 are when the brain is mostly in ultra-slow delta wave mode. No muscles are moving. Later in the night, REM (rapid eye movement) sleep starts — and dreaming begins. This is also the time when blood pressure goes up (i.e., more heart attacks in the morning) and when males experience involuntary erections.

The good news in the New York study was that more slow-wave sleep was enjoyed by people who voluntarily ate more fiber. Other interesting conclusions were drawn and reported in different scientific papers:

  • Sleep-deprived people's brains responded more strongly to "food stimuli" (sight/smell of food)
  • Sleep-deprived people's brains responded strongly to unhealthy food stimuli, and it was an effect seen all over the brain. The same stimuli didn't really affect people on enough sleep.
  • Sleep-deprived men have increased ghrelin release. Ghrelin is known as a hunger hormone. 
  • Sleep-deprived women have lower levels of GLP-1, resulting in less insulin being released, and more glucose (sugar) being allowed to remain in the blood and not stored away. 

The key takeaways

The next time you wonder if you are ever going to lose weight, make sure you are getting over seven hours per night. If you do have a long night, as a man, try not to overeat due to your hunger hormones by having healthy snacks on hand and limiting portions. As a woman, make sure to get some exercise (makes your body store up blood sugar) or take a blood sugar-lowering supplement like fiber, burdock or alpha-lipoic acid with your meal to ease blood sugar spikes. It goes without saying that sleep deprivation is the worst time to indulge in sweets and refined white flour! 

Enjoy Your Healthy Life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. To learn more about the pH Health Care Team, click here.

Comments (1)

Guest

Nice work retrieving above study! Yes sleep deficiency is highly correlated with increased hunger, higher cortisol levels and more food intake to following day. Interesting correlation of food, brain waves and quality of sleep.

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