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Sleep disorders: consuming this type of food promotes insomnia, according to a study

  • May 31, 2024
  • 5 Min
  • 18

Lying in your bed, you contemplate the ceiling, waiting to fall into the arms of Morpheus. However, nothing happens. Whether it’s listening d’ASMRof brown noises or even the experimentation of brain tapping, you always stay awake. An observation shared by a number of French people in view of the results of the *survey conducted by OpinionWay for the National Institute of Sleep and Vigilance and the MGEN, published in March 2023, the French have trouble falling asleep during the week, the latter finding sleep after 40 minutes.

But certain habits can help you get back to sleep. Last March, Icelandic researchers estimated what to do 2 to 3 hours of physical activity per week would reduce insomnia. More recently, researchers from Sorbonne University (France) and Columbia University (United States) note that consuming ultra-processed foods increases the risk of insomnia. Their results are published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Ultra-processed foods increase the risk of insomnia

To arrive at these results, the researchers analyzed data from the French NutriNet-Santé study. Information on sleep quality and eating habits was collected, particularly with regard to ultra-processed foods. “These products typically contain additives (e.g. artificial flavors, colors), large amounts sugarfat or salt and a very small amount of dietary fiber”, write the researchers in the study. In total, the authors based themselves on a panel of more than 39,000 participants. Data was collected every six months between 2013 and 2015.

The researchers noted that on average, ultra-processed foods accounted for 16% of the total dietary intake. In total, 19.4% of participants presented symptoms of chronic insomnia, such as difficulty falling asleep, nocturnal awakenings or waking up too early in the morning. “People who reported chronic insomnia consumed a higher percentage of their energy intake in the form of ultra-processed foods,” note the researchers.

The Mediterranean diet would have a positive impact on sleep

But how can we explain the impact of ultra-processed foods on sleep? According to researchers, this type of diet negatively impacts brain functionality via the gut-brain axis, preventing the secretion of melatonin, the sleep hormone. Conversely, researchers note that certain foods can help you fall asleep, such as dairy products, fish, fruits and vegetables.

“Our research team previously reported associations between healthy eating habits, such as Mediterranean dietand reduced risk of insomnia and poor sleep quality (both in cross-sectional and longitudinal analysis), as well as high-carbohydrate diets with increased risk of insomnia,” notes in the press release Professor Marie-Pierre St-Onge, from the Center of Excellence for Research on Sleep and Circadian Rhythms at Columbia University.

Sources :

  • The association between ultra-processed food consumption and chronic insomnia in the NutriNet-Santé Study – Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
  • What’s Keeping You Up at Night? Could Ultra-Processed Foods Be Associated With Your Insomnia? – Elsevier
author avatar
Louis Tardy