Can Eating More Fruits and Vegetables Help with Sleep?

by Ella

Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for overall health and well-being. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that adults aged 18 to 60 get at least 7 hours of sleep per night. However, approximately 30% of adults fall short of this recommendation.

Several factors can affect sleep patterns, including sleep hygiene, mental health issues, and lifestyle choices. Researchers from Finland’s University of Helsinki, National Institute for Health and Welfare, and Turku University of Applied Sciences recently explored how dietary choices, particularly the consumption of fruits and vegetables, might influence sleep duration.


Study Overview

A study published in Frontiers in Nutrition examined the sleep and dietary habits of 5,043 adults in Finland. The researchers found that individuals who consumed around 460 grams of fruits and vegetables per day were more likely to get an adequate amount of rest compared to those who ate fewer of these foods.


Lower consumption of fruits and vegetables was associated with sleeping either too little or too much, both of which can have negative health implications.


The Role of Fruits and Vegetables in Sleep

When people sleep, their bodies undergo vital processes such as cell repair, hormone regulation, and memory consolidation. Insufficient sleep can disrupt these processes, leading to various health issues.


The National Institutes of Health (NIH) explains that sleep supports healthy brain function and physical health. Poor sleep hygiene, sleep apnea, and insomnia are common reasons why some people struggle to get enough rest. On the other hand, excessive sleep—more than 9 hours per night—can also contribute to mental health and heart issues.

The Finnish study aimed to understand how fruit and vegetable intake might relate to sleep duration. Participants completed questionnaires about their sleep habits, dietary intake, socioeconomic status, body mass index (BMI), physical activity, and health problems.

Key Findings

The researchers categorized participants based on their self-reported sleep duration:

Short sleepers (21% of participants) slept an average of 6 hours per night.

Normal sleepers (76.1% of participants) slept an average of 7.7 hours per night.

Long sleepers (2.9% of participants) slept an average of 10.1 hours per night.

“Normal sleepers” who slept 7 to 9 hours per night had a higher fruit and vegetable intake than the other groups.

Specifically, they consumed an average of 463.1 grams of fruits and vegetables per day, which was higher than both short and long sleepers.

Short sleepers consumed an average of 37 grams less per day than normal sleepers, while long sleepers consumed 73.4 grams less. Both short and normal sleepers met the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended daily intake of 400 grams but fell short of the Nordic Council of Ministers’ recommendation of 500 to 800 grams.

Types of Fruits and Vegetables

Further analysis revealed significant differences in the types of vegetables consumed by different sleep groups. Short sleepers consumed fewer green leafy vegetables, root vegetables, and fruit vegetables (such as tomatoes and cucumbers) compared to normal sleepers. Long sleepers also consumed fewer green leafy vegetables and fruit vegetables.

In terms of fruit intake, there were significant differences in the consumption of berries, fresh fruit, and canned fruit between short sleepers and normal sleepers. Apples were the only fruit subgroup that differed significantly between long and normal sleepers.

Chronotypes and Sleep

The study also examined whether participants’ chronotypes (morning, intermediate, or evening preference) influenced the relationship between sleep duration and fruit and vegetable consumption. The analysis suggested that chronotype had minimal impact on this relationship.

Implications for Public Health

The study’s findings emphasize the importance of focusing on nutrition to improve sleep quality. Keeping a food diary to track fruit and vegetable intake may help individuals make dietary adjustments that promote better sleep.

Expert Insights

Sudha Tallavajhula, MD, a neurological sleep disorders physician at UTHealth Houston, highlighted that the study’s conclusions should be interpreted as associations rather than causation. “Poor sleep behavior is associated with poor food choices,” she explained. “Poor sleep usually translates into less daytime energy levels, leading people to choose easy foods like canned and processed items rather than fresh ingredients.”

Dr. Tallavajhula also emphasized the need to consider sleep and other lifestyle parameters when introducing interventions to improve dietary habits.

Devika Bhushan, MD, a pediatrician and public health leader, pointed out that the association between atypical sleep patterns and lower fruit and vegetable consumption raises questions about causality. She suggested that underlying stress biology might influence both sleep patterns and dietary choices.

Stress and Diet

Stress-related health conditions, such as depression, chronic pain, and heart and lung disease, can disrupt healthy sleep habits and lead to atypical sleep durations. Activation of stress pathways can also promote cravings for higher-calorie, higher-fat, and carbohydrate-rich foods, often decreasing overall fruit and vegetable intake.


The study using data from the U.K. Biobank highlights the potential benefits of consuming more fruits and vegetables for achieving better sleep. Moderate consumption of these foods appears to support healthier sleep patterns, although further research is needed to explore the underlying mechanisms and causality.

Improving dietary habits by increasing fruit and vegetable intake could be a valuable strategy for enhancing sleep quality. Public health interventions should consider the interconnectedness of diet, sleep, and overall lifestyle to promote better health outcomes.



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