Sleep issues are a common problem for many adults. Approximately 30% of all American’s have symptoms of insomnia. But new research has found that increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables could help young adults sleep better.
The new study published in the Sleep Health Journal analyzed data from more than 1,400 participants. Eligible young adults included those aged between 21–30 who received medical care at two centers, the Detroit-based Henry Ford and the more rural Geisinger Health System headquartered in Danville, Pennsylvania. At the start of the study, all participants reported eating less than five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
All participants were randomized into one of three groups. The first group had an untailored web-based program to encourage higher fruit and vegetable consumption. The second had an age-targeted tailored web-based program, and the third group also included personalized e-coaching support.
It was found that young adults who increased their fruit and vegetable consumption by at least three servings experienced modest improvement in the time it took to fall asleep. Overall, insomnia was also improved over a three-month period. Participants who had no change or smaller increases in fruits and vegetables showed no improvements.
Women, in particular, who increased their fruit and vegetable intake by three or more servings reported a four-minute shorter time on average to fall asleep. They also showed two-fold higher odds of improvement in insomnia symptoms.
Erica Jansen, the lead author of the study, said, “What is unique about our study is that we were able to see that as fruit and vegetable intake changed, insomnia-related sleep characteristics also changed. We still cannot rule out that sleep characteristics changed first, which in turn caused a change in fruit and vegetable intake, but since the participants were part of a trial to increase fruit and vegetable intake, it is more likely the other way around. The participants were not told to change anything about their sleep habits.”
Easy Dietary Intervention
As the incidence of insomnia rises across the US, researchers hope these findings will offer an easy way to reduce the symptoms associated with the condition. Health care professionals are excited to see that a simple dietary intervention can have such an impact on sleep.
By incorporating more fruits and vegetables into a daily diet and other sleep hygiene principles, chronic insomnia in young adults could be reduced. Other sleep hygiene techniques include keeping a consistent bedtime and rise time, eliminating screens prior to bedtime, and sleeping in a dark, cool environment. Previous research has shown that an improvement in sleep also improves the overall quality of life and many other health outcomes.