Australian researchers have found that not getting a good night’s sleep, will have women of child-bearing age reaching for fattier foods to help them through the day and this could have an impact on their child’s future health.
In the largest Australian study of the link between sleep and diet, researchers from Monash University, assessed the sleeping behaviours and food choices of more than 7,000 Australian women aged 31-36 years.
According to Dr Michelle Blumfield, who led the team of researchers from Monash University, women who slept the least, at around six hours a night, often with severe tiredness and sleeping difficulties, took in more of their daily kilojoules from fat and saturated fat. She also found sleeping difficulties were linked with a heavier body weight, and poorer mental and physical health, as perceived by the study participants
“Our research shows lack of sleep can lead to poorer dietary choices in women of childbearing age, and this can impact on the health of their children,” said Dr Blumfield, an Accredited Practising Dietitian.
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She says improving sleep patterns, in conjunction with dietary and physical activity strategies, may assist women to optimise their dietary intake in preparation for pregnancy.
“A nutritious diet and a healthy body weight before conception and during pregnancy are vital. Whereas poor nutrition and excess body weight can change the intrauterine environment, which affects childhood growth and plays a part in the risk of obesity and certain diseases later in a child’s life,’ said Dr Blumfield.
Currently one in three Australian women are overweight or obese at the start of pregnancy, which increases the risk for both mother and baby¹. And research shows a mother’s Body Mass Index (BMI) at the start of pregnancy is a key predictor of her child’s future weight.
“Our sleeping patterns aren’t set in concrete – they can be changed. An easy win to help women, including mums-to-be, improve their diet is to work on getting a better night’s sleep. What’s not to like about that?” said Dr Blumfield.
The work of Dr Blumfield and her team, will be presented at the Dietitians Association of Australia’s National Conference in Melbourne this week (19-21 May 2016).
Dietitians Association of Australia President Liz Kellett encouraged all women to focus on the quality of their diet by choosing a wide variety of healthy foods, including plenty of vegetables, along with fruit, wholegrain bread and cereals, lean meats, reduced-fat dairy foods, and healthy fats, from foods like nuts, avocado and olive oil.
1. Obesity Australia Fact Sheet: Obesity in Pregnancy. Available at: http://www.obesityaustralia.org/general-public-fact-sheets/obesity-in-pregnancy (Accessed 10 May 2016)