Links between short sleep duration and obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease may be mediated through changes in dietary intake. This review provides an overview of recent epidemiologic studies on the relations between habitual short sleep duration and dietary intake in adults from 16 cross-sectional studies. The studies have observed consistent associations between short sleep duration and higher total energy intake and higher total fat intake, and limited evidence for lower fruit intake, and lower quality diets. Evidence also suggests that short sleepers may have irregular eating behavior deviating from the traditional 3 meals/d to fewer main meals and more frequent, smaller, energy-dense, and highly palatable snacks at night. Although the impact of short sleep duration on dietary intake tends to be small, if chronic, it may contribute to an increased risk of obesity and related chronic disease. Mechanisms mediating the associations between sleep duration and dietary intake are likely to be multifactorial and include differences in the appetite-related hormones leptin and ghrelin, hedonic pathways, extended hours for intake, and altered time of intake. Taking into account these epidemiologic relations and the evidence for causal relations between sleep loss and metabolism and cardiovascular function, health promotion strategies should emphasize improved sleep as an additional factor in health and weight management. Moreover, future sleep interventions in controlled studies and sleep extension trials in chronic short sleepers are imperative for establishing whether there is a causal relation between short sleep duration and changes in dietary intake.
Keywords: BMI; CLOCK; dietary intake; obesity; short sleep duration; sleep; time.
© 2015 American Society for Nutrition.