(Natural News) Many Americans get less than the recommended amount of sleep. In fact, according to the National Sleep Foundation‘s inaugural Sleep Health Index, about 35 percent of Americans have poor sleep quality. Meanwhile, 20 percent of Americans say that they do not wake up feeling refreshed on any day of the week. Not getting enough sleep has been linked to a variety of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
But new research suggests that poor-quality sleep may be linked to nutrient deficiency. In a study presented at Nutrition 2019, the annual meeting of the American Society for Nutrition, researchers found that people who get less than seven hours of sleep each night also consume less calcium, magnesium, zinc and niacin. In addition, these people were deficient in vitamins A, B1 and D.
“This work adds to the body of growing evidence associating specific nutrient intake with sleep outcomes,” said Chioma Ikonte, one of the authors of the study. “Our findings suggest that individuals with short sleep duration might benefit from improving their intake of these nutrients through diet and supplementation.”
The link between sleep and nutrition
The term “micronutrients” refers to vitamins and minerals that the human body requires but cannot naturally produce. People, therefore, need to obtain these nutrients from external sources, such as the food that they eat or dietary supplements. (Related: Sleep deprivation may cause weight gain.)
According to studies, micronutrients play important roles in human growth and development, as well as in disease prevention. However, the World Health Organization reports that a staggering two billion people worldwide suffer from a micronutrient deficiency. To find out how micronutrients affect sleep, a team of nutritionists looked at correlations between vitamin and mineral intake and sleep quality.
The researchers analyzed data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a research program conducted between 2005 and 2015 to assess the health and nutritional status of Americans. Compared to those who got seven hours of sleep — the amount recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for adults — the researchers found that adults who slept fewer hours tended to consume lower amounts of micronutrients.
They also observed that in women, more micronutrients were associated with poor sleep than in men. However, the use of dietary supplements significantly reduced this number, suggesting that people with poor diets can meet their daily nutritional requirements by taking dietary supplements.
While their findings have significant implications, the researchers noted that more research is needed to clarify things.
“Whether chronic short sleep causes nutrient insufficiency or the nutrient insufficiency causes short sleep still needs to be determined,” Ikonte said. “A clinical study that investigates [the impact of] supplementation with these nutrients on sleep outcomes is needed to demonstrate cause and effect.”
Tips for getting good-quality sleep
When it comes to good health, getting a good night’s sleep is just as important as healthy eating and regular exercise. Besides consuming the right amounts of essential nutrients, there are other things you can do to optimize your sleep quality.
- Increase exposure to bright lights during the day. The human body has an internal clock called the circadian rhythm that helps you stay awake and tells your body when it’s time for bed. Exposing yourself to natural sunlight during the day, but not at night, can help keep your circadian rhythm in check, improving daytime energy as well as nighttime sleep quality and duration.
- Avoid caffeine consumption late in the day. While coffee can give you a quick boost in focus, energy and even physical performance, consuming caffeine late in the day can stimulate your nervous system and make it difficult for you to relax at night. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, caffeine intake six hours before bedtime has disruptive effects on sleep.
- Be consistent with your sleep and waking times. Research has found that having irregular sleeping patterns can alter your biological clock and mess with your melatonin levels. As melatonin regulates your sleep-wake cycle, changes in its concentrations can affect your circadian rhythm and result in poor sleep.
Sleep plays an important role in your overall health. Improve the quality of your sleep by incorporating more micronutrients into your diet.