Your quality of sleep may have a bigger effect on your both your diet and heart health than you think. Getty Images

How Your Lack of Sleep May Be Affecting Your Diet — and Heart Health

  • A new study has found a link between poor sleep, unhealthy diet, and overeating in women.
  • Unhealthy diet is a risk factor for heart disease.
  • Researchers believe this may explain why poor sleep is linked to increased risk for heart disease.
  • Improved sleep quality may reduce risk.
  • Eating a heart healthy diet may also lower your risk.

According to a study by a group of Columbia University Irving Medical Center researchers, women who don’t sleep well tend to overeat and have a poor quality diet.

Previous research has demonstrated a link between not getting enough sleep and obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

It was thought that this link might be due to diet, but it was unclear exactly how inadequate sleep might influence diet.

This new research may provide an explanation.

This is important, said senior author Brooke Aggarwal, EdD, an assistant professor of medical sciences at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, because sleep problems are very common among women.

In fact, almost 40 percent of women have poor sleep, she said.

While previous studies have concentrated on sleep duration and its effect on health, this study looked at sleep quality instead.

What the study found

To clarify the link between sleep and diet, Aggarwal and her team analyzed the sleep and eating habits of a group of women.

The study included 495 women, aged 20 to 76, from a diverse range of ethnic backgrounds, which Aggarwal said made it unique from other studies.

The researchers took a look at the women’s sleep quality, how long it took them to fall asleep, and whether they experienced insomnia.

The women were also asked to report about the types of foods that they typically ate as well as the amounts.

The team found that women with worse sleep quality tended to eat more added sugars, a pattern that is associated with both obesity and diabetes.

Those who took longer to fall asleep tended to eat more, based both on calories and the weight of food consumed.

Women with worse insomnia were found to eat more food by weight. They also consumed fewer unsaturated fats compared to women who had less severe insomnia.

Poor sleep quality was further associated with a lower intake of whole grains.