Chronic insomnia: Could ultra-processed foods be to blame?

Recent research suggests a potential link between chronic insomnia and the consumption of ultra-processed foods (UPFs) [1].

UPFs, characterized by high levels of sugars, unhealthy fats and artificial additives, have been scrutinized for their adverse health impacts, including obesity and cardiovascular diseases. Now, their role in sleep disorders is coming under the spotlight.

A study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics investigated individuals’ dietary patterns and sleep quality. The researchers focused on UPFs, which include items like sugary cereals, soft drinks, packaged snacks and ready-to-eat meals.

These foods are typically low in nutritional value and high in calories, sugars and unhealthy fats.

The study involved a large sample of participants who provided detailed information about their dietary habits and sleep patterns. Researchers used validated questionnaires to assess sleep quality and dietary intake, ensuring the data’s reliability.

The results revealed a significant association between high consumption of UPFs and increased risk of chronic insomnia. Participants with the highest intake of UPFs were more likely to report difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep and experiencing non-restorative sleep.

This correlation continued even after adjusting for potential confounders such as age, gender, physical activity and overall diet quality.

The study highlights several mechanisms that might explain this relationship. UPFs are often high in sugars and unhealthy fats, leading to metabolic disturbances affecting sleep.

Additionally, artificial additives and preservatives commonly found in UPFs might interfere with sleep-regulating hormones [2].

While the study provides valuable insights, it also highlights the need for further research. Longitudinal studies could establish a causal relationship between UPFs and insomnia.

Additionally, exploring the biological mechanisms in more detail could provide a deeper understanding of how dietary choices impact sleep.

This research adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that diet plays a crucial role in sleep health [3]. By paying attention to food quality, individuals can reduce their risk of chronic insomnia and improve overall wellbeing.

[1] https://www.jandonline.org/article/S2212-2672(24)00094-7/fulltext
[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9919031/
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5015038/

Photograph: amenic181/Envato
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