Want to clock more ZZZ’s? Change up your plate. Certain nutrients in your diet—like vitamin C, lycopene, and selenium—are associated with healthier sleep patterns, according to a new study on 4,500 people published in Appetite.
Researchers crunched sleep and nutrition data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). They broke people up into four sleep categories: “very short” (less than 5 hours per night), “short” (5 to 6 hours), “normal” (7 to 8 hours) and “long” (more than 9 hours) and examined the participants’ diet patterns from 24-hour food recall interviews.
One key finding from the study: People who ate a more varied diet were more likely to be “normal” sleepers (about 18 foods versus 14 in the shortest sleepers). Eating a variety of foods may indicate you’re consuming more nutrients. In turn, “that may provide the nutritional coverage to help your body work optimally, which, among other things, would translate into better sleep,” says study coauthor Michael A. Grandner, Ph.D., a research associate at the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania.
So why’s the sleep-diet connection so important? People who get 7 to 8 hours of sleep at night are generally healthier. Research shows those who log less hours have an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, while sleeping more than 9 hours has been linked to depression.
“This study should remind us that not only is sleep an important part of overall health, but sleep and diet are related to each other,” Grandner says. The reasons why vary—people who sleep better may make more nutritious food choices, or they may make healthy eating a priority. Other studies have shown that sleep loss affects certain hormones that control hunger and appetite.
Although Gardner says his research didn’t uncover why certain foods are related to better sleep, it can’t hurt to eat more of the nutrients identified in the study that help make your night better. Here are five:
Lycopene: A cancer-fighting antioxidant found in tomatoes, watermelon, and pink grapefruit.
Vitamin C: One cup of strawberries or one medium kiwi packs more than 100 percent of your daily value of this heart- and cancer-protective antioxidant.
Selenium: An ounce of Brazil nuts or a can of tuna are both excellent sources of this anti-inflammatory that’s key for immune function.
Theobromine: Find this heart healthy phytochemical in tea and chocolate.
Lauric acid: Most commonly found in coconut oil. Though it’s a saturated fatty acid, studies show that it may improve “healthy” HDL cholesterol without affecting “bad” LDL levels.This article was originally published by Men’s Health. See the original article here.