Dietary nutrients associated with short and long sleep duration. Data from a nationally representative sample

Appetite. 2013 May;64:71-80. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2013.01.004. Epub 2013 Jan 20.


Short sleep duration is associated with weight gain and obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, psychiatric illness, and performance deficits. Likewise, long sleep duration is also associated with poor physical and mental health. The role of a healthy diet in habitual sleep duration represents a largely unexplored pathway linking sleep and health. This study evaluated associations between habitual sleep parameters and dietary/nutritional variables obtained via the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 2007-2008. We hypothesized that habitual very short (<5h) short (5-6h) and long (9+h) sleep durations are associated with intake of a number of dietary nutrient variables. Overall, energy intake varied across very short (2036kcal), short (2201kcal), and long (1926kcal) sleep duration, relative to normal (2151kcal) sleep duration (p=0.001). Normal sleep duration was associated with the greatest food variety (17.8), compared to very short (14.0), short (16.5) and long (16.3) sleep duration (p<0.001). Associations between sleep duration were found across nutrient categories, with significant associations between habitual sleep duration and proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. In stepwise analyses, significant contributors of unique variance included theobromine (long sleep RR=0.910, p<0.05), vitamin C (short sleep RR=0.890, p<0.05), tap water (short sleep RR=0.952, p<0.001; very short (<5h) sleep RR=0.941, p<0.05), lutein+zeaxanthin (short sleep RR=1.123, p<0.05), dodecanoic acid (long sleep RR=0.812, p<0.05), choline (long sleep RR=0.450, p=0.001), lycopene (very short (<5h) sleep RR=0.950, p<0.05), total carbohydrate (very short (<5h) sleep RR=0.494, p<0.05; long sleep RR=0.509, p<0.05), selenium (short sleep RR=0.670, p<0.01) and alcohol (long sleep RR=1.172, p<0.01). Overall, many nutrient variables were associated with short and/or long sleep duration, which may be explained by differences in food variety. Future studies should assess whether these associations are due to appetite dysregulation, due to short/long sleep and/or whether these nutrients have physiologic effects on sleep regulation. In addition, these data may help us better understand the complex relationship between diet and sleep and the potential role of diet in the relationship between sleep and obesity and other cardiometabolic risks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / pharmacology*
  • Drinking
  • Energy Intake
  • Ethanol / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Sleep / drug effects*
  • Theobromine / pharmacology*
  • Water / pharmacology*
  • Weight Gain


  • Antioxidants
  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Water
  • Ethanol
  • Theobromine