In the largest Australian study into sleep and dietary links, researchers have found that a lack of sleep is linked to nutritional problems, dietary diseases and corresponding weight gain.
The study, done by Monash University, assessed the sleeping behaviours and food choices of more than 7,000 Australian women aged 31-36 years.
Results highlighted that women who slept the least (around 6 hours each night), consumed more high fat foods during the day. Findings also revealed that sleeping difficulties were linked with a heavier body weight and poorer perceived mental and physical health.
Lead researcher Dr Michelle Blumfield explained the research shows that lack of sleep can lead to poorer dietary choices in women of childbearing age, which can impact on the health of their children.
She said it is important to optimize sleeping patterns, dietary intake and body weight in preparation for pregnancy, to minimize the risk of their child developing obesity and other diseases later in life.
Currently, one in three Australian women are overweight or obese at the start of pregnancy.
With research showing a mother’s Body Mass Index (BMI) at the start of pregnancy is a key indicator of her child’s future weight, women need to improve lifestyle behaviours in preparation for pregnancy.
Luckily, sleep patterns and diet can be changed.
By simply working on getting a better night’s sleep, improvements to food intake can be reached. Dietitians Association of Australia President Liz Kellet recommends her simple guidelines for a nutritional balanced diet: choose a variety of healthy foods including vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, lean meats, reduced fat dairy products and healthy fats (nuts, avocado, olive oil).