Feeding and Sleep Behavior

  • Chin Moi Chow
  • Christopher Paul Herrera


Feeding and sleeping follow a circadian pattern that synchronizes with the light–dark cycle. Both are essential physiological processes without which life ceases. Remarkably, the two processes interact reciprocally and disturbance to either has poor health outcomes. Feeding enables macronutrients to reach the body for nourishment. It is the macronutrients, largely carbohydrates and fat, that impact sleep 2–4 h postprandially. High glycemic index carbohydrates, in particular, facilitate ease of sleep onset by increasing tryptophan availability to the brain with tryptophan acting as a precursor for sleep-inducing neurochemicals. High fat meals mediate sleep through increased cholecystokinin release from the small intestine. Postprandial sleepiness that occurs following lunch is linked to the thermic effects of food as well as to the circadian phenomenon of postlunch dip. Both underfeeding (anorexia nervosa) and overfeeding (obesity) adversely affect sleep. Food deprivation of several days induces an increase in slow wave (deep) sleep (SWS), whereas chronic deprivation decreases SWS. The sleep changes appear to be linked to changes in the fuel stores of protein and fat. SWS appearance may play a key role in glucose homeostasis and brain glycogen accumulation. Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, affects appetitive behavior. Short sleep in humans increases appetite and risk of weight gain, although the causal link between short sleep and BMI has not been established. Short sleep in rats typically stimulates hyperphagia and weight loss, and the increased energy expenditure may be explained by brown adipose tissue thermogenesis. In appraisal, careful selection of macronutrients and appropriate timing of meals could be used to advantage for the management of sleep difficulties relating to insomnia, depression, and shift work. Chronic dieting with protracted low adiposity may be detrimental to sleep while short sleep predisposes an increased appetite and weight gain.


Anorexia Nervosa Glycemic Index Paradoxical Sleep Multiple Sleep Latency Test Large Neutral Amino Acid 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Slow wave sleep


Body mass index




Glycemic index


High fat–low carbohydrate


Low fat–high carbohydrate


Multiple sleep latency test




Rapid eye movement sleep


Nonrapid eye movement




5-Hydroxy-tryptamine (serotonin)


Large neutral amino acids




Paradoxical sleep


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Delta Sleep Research Unit, Discipline of Exercise and Sport ScienceThe University of SydneyLidcombeAustralia

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