Study: High-Fat Diet Linked To Daytime Sleepiness


A diet rich in fat could cause sleepiness throughout the day, according to the results of a new study.

Australian researchers investigating the link between a high-fat diet and daytime sleepiness have found that, when compared to those whose fat intake was lowest in the study, those who ate the most fat in their diet were 78 percent more likely to suffer from sleepiness during the day, and almost three times as likely to suffer from sleep apnea, reports The New York Times. The study also accounted for factors such as smoking, medications, and physical activity.

Around 20 percent of Americans are affected by daytime sleepiness, according to Medical Daily. Sleep apnea, a disorder which affects breathing and causes those suffering to wake up multiple times during the night, preventing a restful sleep, affects an estimated 18 million Americans, according to the Sleep Disorders Guide. Sleep apnea is more common in men than women, and often affects people with a high Body Mass Index.

Yingting Cao, the study's lead author, said that daytime sleepiness can spiral into cravings for more fat-rich foods.

"Poor sleep and feeling sleepy during the day means you have less energy," the University of Adelaide doctoral candidate explained. "But this in turn is known to increase people's cravings for high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods, which is then associated with poor sleep outcomes. The poor diet-and-sleep pattern can become a vicious cycle."

The study examined the eating and sleep habits of 1,815 Australian men between the ages of 35 and 80 over the course of a year. Participants were asked to keep a record of their eating habits and at night, the men in the study were electrically monitored for signs of sleep apnea. The study did not distinguish between healthy fats like those found in avocado and unhealthy fats like those found in pizza.

Cao said that the study had significant implications for workers who may need to be alert during the day.

"The simple message is a commonsense one, but we need more people to pay attention to it," said Cao. "We need to eat better; a good sleep the night before is best."

Sources: The New York Times, Medical Daily, Sleep Disorders Guide / Photo credit: Steven Lilley/Flickr

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