Examining the Connections Between Sleep, Nutrition & Physical Activity
It’s common knowledge that regular exercise and a nutritious, well-balanced diet are key ingredients to achieving and maintaining good health. However a growing body of new research has linked both of these factors to the quality and duration of our sleep, thus emphasizing the vital, yet often overlooked, role that sleep plays in our overall health and wellbeing.
A recent study conducted by researchers at the Mayo Clinic examined the relationship between sleep deprivation and caloric consumption in young adults. Half the study participants were restricted to approximately 5 hours of sleep each night, about one hour and 20 minutes less than the control group. Researchers found that the sleep deprived group consumed an average of 549 calories more each day than the control group, thus concluding that even modest sleep deprivation may promote obesity. ¹ This connection between poor sleep and increased caloric intake is attributed to two hormones that regulate appetite. People who are sleep deprived tend to have higher levels of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates hunger, and lower levels of leptin, a hormone that provides a feeling of fullness.
Many studies have also examined the link between sleep and physical activity. In a systematic review conducted by researchers at National Taiwan University, adults who regularly performed an exercise training program scored higher on the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, had a shorter sleep latency and used fewer sleep medications that a control group. ² In a separate study, adults with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) that participated in a moderate intensity aerobic exercise and resistance training program reported significant improvements in depressive symptoms, fatigue and vigor, and quality of life compared to a low-intensity stretching control group.³