Study says poor sleep can lead to increased risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease
If you’re a woman, you know that getting enough sleep can be a challenge. Between raising children, taking care of daily activities of work — in or out of the home — and then menopause later in life, sleep doesn’t always come easily.
A new study has found even more reason to make sleep a priority. The research, which was done as part of the American Heart Association Go Red for Women prospective cohort study, looked at sleep and eating habits of nearly 500 women, including time it took for each woman to fall asleep, insomnia and sleep quality. It then looked at how much women were eating, as well as the quality of foods.
What researchers found is that women who needed longer to fall asleep ate more food; women with insomnia ate higher quantities of food, but were lacking unsaturated or “good” fats; and women who had poor sleep quality tended to eat higher amounts of sugar.
“We know that eating higher amounts of food, especially if it is lower quality, can lead to a range of health issues, especially obesity, which can then lead to diabetes and heart disease,” said Kris Ellen Barnsfather, M.D., OB/GYN with Norton Women’s Health. “Obesity also can lead to sleep apnea, which makes sleep quality even worse. Women in general spend so much time taking care of others that they often don’t take enough care of themselves.
“The one thing that still needs to be determined is if the sleep issues lead to poor eating, or poor eating leads to poor sleep. This is an important study that shows how much we need to pay attention to lifestyle to maintain health.”
If you are struggling with sleep, the first step is to speak to your medical provider during one of your exams. Women should have yearly exams with a primary care provider as well as a gynecologist and other providers. If you’re going through menopause, your provider can talk about lifestyle changes and even medication that can help — especially with sleep.
Tips for good sleep
- Ensure your bedroom is ideal for sleep.
- If you have trouble falling asleep, try meditation.
- Do you snore? You could have sleep apnea that is interfering with a good night’s sleep. Take our quiz to assess your sleep habits. Sleep apnea also can be caused by obesity
Tips for healthy eating
- Know what healthy eating
- Pay attention to fiber.
- Learn how to make your trips to the grocery store
- Learn about the best foods for your heart.