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A recent study has shown that men who eat food which is high in fat are more likely to experience sleepiness during the day, have sleep-related issues at night and also tend to suffer from sleep apnoea.

In experimental studies that were previously done, it was shown that the intake of certain foods can affect a person's sleeping pattern, which included obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), but there was uncertainty regarding what the population level of affected adults was. 

The study

Research was done to look at whether there was an association between the intake of fatty foods and the development of sleep-related issues. Data, which included dietary and sleeping habits, was collected from over 1,800 men who were aged between 35 and 80 years old and this was conducted over a 1 year period.

This information was collected from questionnaires which were filled in by the participants. Some of these participants, who were not diagnosed with OSA, had overnight in-home polysomnography tests done, too.

The findings

It was discovered that the participants who were consuming the most fat were the most likely to experience sleepiness during the daytime and it was also linked to an increased risk of developing sleep apnoea. 41% of the men in the study had mentioned that they experienced sleepiness during the day and 47% said that they experienced poor sleep quality during the night. The mentioned sleep study that was done on some participants showed that 54% of patients had mild/moderate sleep apnoea and that 25% had moderate/severe apnoea.

The clinical significance

It would be suggested, from this study, that a high percentage of men who consumed a high-fat diet were more at risk of developing fatigue and sleepiness during the day as well as disturbed sleeping patterns at night.

These issues cause a person to have less energy and, in turn, result in them craving high-carbohydrate and high-fat containing foods which then results in more sleep related symptoms during the day and night. The patient is then stuck in a vicious cycle which needs to be broken.

Healthcare personnel should therefore emphasize to their patients that they should incorporate more healthier foods in their diet in order to cut down on the fat intake. This should result in patients feeling more energized which will lead to less daytime sleepiness and disturbed sleeping patterns at night. Advice on sleep hygiene should also be mentioned to patients and they should be encouraged to follow the suggestions in order to improve their sleeping patterns.

Sleep hygiene

The following are suggestions to help people who struggle with their sleeping patterns.

  • Follow a sleep schedule - one should set specific times to go to sleep and get up in the morning every day, even on weekends and holidays. If one struggles to fall asleep 15 minutes after getting into bed, then they should perform relaxing activities until they feel tired. Stimulating activities such as watching T.V. or working on the computer should be avoided.
  • Watch out for what's being consumed before going to bed - avoid going to bed on an empty or full stomach. Avoid foods, like cheese, before going to bed as the tyrosine it contains can cause one to sleep restlessly or even experience nightmares.
  • Have a routine before going to sleep - performing the same activities before going to bed allows the body to get used to the habit of knowing when it's time to sleep. Take a warm bath or shower, have a warm milk drink (avoid stimulants such as alcohol or coffee) and listen to relaxing music, for example.
  • Getting comfortable - the room should be quiet and dark and comfortable pillows and bedding should improve a person's ability to get to sleep.
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