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APSS: Poor Sleep and Insomnia May Lead to Impaired Nutrition

(PSYCHIATRIC TIMES) - MedPage Today Action Points

o Explain to patients that this study suggests that sleep problems may be associated with other problems including a failure to eat healthy foods.

o This study was published as an abstract and presented orally at a conference. These data and conclusions should be considered to be preliminary as they have not yet been reviewed and published in a peer-reviewed publication.

MINNEAPOLIS, June 13 -- Poor sleepers may be too tired during the day to eat properly, according to researchers here.

Yet by increasing the amount of sleep time -- or at least the amount of time in bed before getting up -- there may be a reduction in caloric intake, researchers reported at the Associated Professional Sleep Societies meeting.

"Persons with sleep complaints such as insomnia are less likely to eat at home," said psychologist Mindy Engle-Friedman, Ph.D., of Baruch College of the City University of New York. "These meals outside the home may require less effort and may be less healthful than meals prepared at home."

"Over time, persons with sleep complaints may have weight or health problems related to their nutrition," she said.

She studied the sleep and diet of 21 healthy undergraduates -- 12 men and nine women -- for seven days. She said the differences between the those eating at home and those who ate more in restaurants reached statistical significance (P<.05) on days two, four, and seven, and trended towards significance on the other days in the study.

"There are commuting students so they are either preparing meals at home or are eating meals that are prepared by their parents," Dr. Engle-Friedman said. "We have found that meals prepared at home are healthier than those in restaurants -- the home-cooked meals have less, fat and have less salt, generally. We have recorded the foods that the students ate during this study and we are analyzing that data now."

She said insomniacs or those who have problems awakening or have reduced sleep times tend to put less effort into their activities of daily living. "They take the easier way out, and when that comes to eating, it is easier to stop into a fast food restaurant than to prepare a meal oneself or wait for it to be ready. By not putting enough effort into preparing their food they are having a negative impact on their nutrition."

Dr. Engle-Friedman noted previous epidemiological studies that suggested dining out at restaurants -- especially fast food restaurants -- has been associated with a 10-pound weight gain over 15 years, and that sleep loss is also associated with insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes.

In an experiment at Hendrix College in Conway, Ark., researchers persuaded 32 summer school student volunteers to keep diaries of the food s that they ate for three weeks and how much time they slept each day, including naps. After one week of baseline sleep and meal were assessed, the participants were told to try to stay in bed two hours longer a night for each night of week two. In week three they were allowed to return to their normal routine.

"What we found was that the students in week two would go to bed earlier and that then would eat nearly 300 calories a day less," said psychologist Jennifer Peszka, Ph.D., of Hendrix.

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