In a new study, researchers found that a better diet is associated with reduced side effects of sleep deprivation.
The research was conducted by a team from Stanford University.
Many researchers have looked into the various ways of improving sleep by reducing work hours or rearranging work schedules, but few have examined how improving diet might help.
In the study, the team examined survey results on sleep and nutrition from 245 Stanford physicians and found that a better diet is associated with reduced side effects of sleep deprivation.
They provide an overview of previous scientific literature that has explored the multiple possible causes of why we crave junk food when we’re tired, and a lot of it has to do with physiology. In other words, it’s not all our fault.
First off, sugar provides a quick fix by temporarily boosting blood sugar levels.
In addition, inadequate sleep tends to lower executive brain function—impairing decision-making skills—and willpower.
Research also shows that changes caused by lack of sleep in appetite-regulating hormones and brain functioning can further lead to the desire to boost energy levels with food and snacks high in added sugars, sodium, fat and saturated fat.
At the same time, past research has also shown that improved nutrition can help mitigate fatigue by improving both cognitive function and sleep quality.
The team says physicians face significant barriers to eating well at work due to long hours, a heavy workload and limited access to healthy meals, snacks, and drinks.
By providing healthy options at work, employers could help reduce the brain fogginess, difficulty concentrating and irritability caused by poor sleep among health care providers. And, as a result, help improve patient care.
Of course, doctors, and the occasional wayward nutritionist are far from alone in reaching for junk food when they’re tired.
Ask any college student who has reached for a candy bar while cramming for exams late at night.
The team’s suggestion to employers: Cut back on the ready supply of sodas and snacks high in sugar, sodium, and saturated fat and instead offer fruits, vegetables, unsalted raw or dry-roasted nuts, salads, smoothies and even healthy protein bars within arm’s reach.
The lead author of the study is Nutrition scientist Maryam Hamidi, Ph.D.
The study is published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.
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