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Getting enough sleep?
Researchers at the Universities of Iowa and Wisconsin collaborated to assess the possible link between sleep duration and obesity (Arch Intern Med 2006;166:1701-1705). In an analysis of data collected from 990 working adults in the rural county of Keokuk, Iowa, they correlated self-reported sleep time with Body Mass Index.

Is there a connection between obesity and sleep disorders?
There is a clear link between poor sleep habits and obesity. In the last few years there have been a number of studies that support those who don't sleep much because they are busy or because they have insomnia are at much higher risk of becoming overweight and obese. 

Try Turning Off the Television
You're all no doubt more than familiar with the two main strategies for weight loss: reducing the number of calories you eat and increasing the number of calories you burn. Obesity researchers are also looking at ways to decrease the amount of time people spend in sedentary behaviors (activities that don't significantly increase the number of calories you burn much above your baseline resting state). 


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Never have business meetings right after lunch; or, why carbohydrates make you sleepy

A pillow on a bed made with white sheets

Your mother probably told you that eating a big meal right before bedtime would give you nightmares. Maybe not nightmares, but research has shown that avoiding meals close to bedtime can help reduce sleep disturbances like insomnia or waking up too early. Are there foods that will help improve sleep?

Researchers in Australia noted that high-Glycemic-Index carbohydrates can increase the blood's level of a macronutrient known as tryptophan, which is a precursor for brain serotonin, a sleep-inducing hormone. They theorized that carbohydrates might then help people go to sleep more quickly and perhaps even improve their sleep quality (Am J Clin Nutr 2007;85(2):426-30).

To test their hypothesis, they recruited twelve healthy men between the ages of 18 and 35 who had normal sleep patterns. One night per week for four weeks they spent in the sleep laboratory, where their sleep quality and the time between going to bed and sleeping was recorded. The first night was a control night: no meal was given. The second through fourth nights, once per week thereafter, each subject was given one of the following types of meals: a high-GI meal given about four hours before bedtime, a high-GI meal given one hour before bedtime, and a low-GI meal given four hours before bedtime. During each visit, the subjects were asked to rate how sleepy they felt on a four-point scale every thirty minutes after their meal.

The scientists found that the high-GI meal given four hours before bedtime reduced a subject's time to sleep by almost 50% when compared to the low-GI meal also eaten four hours before bed. Similarly, the high-GI meal eaten one hour before bedtime shortened the time to sleep by just over 38% compared to the low-GI meal. The subjects also reported feeling sleepier after the high-GI meals, regardless of when they ate. Their sleep quality remained about the same.

What this means for you

The meal in this study was limited to all carbohydrates: in this case, two different types of rice. Large amounts of protein with your meal can reduce the Glycemic Index of the meal as a whole, so if you're having trouble getting to sleep, make sure you eat early enough and that your evening meal is well balanced between carbohydrates, fat, and protein. On the other hand, lunchtime is probably not the best time to be eating a big pasta dish if you have business meetings in the afternoon.

First posted: February 23, 2007