Study Suggests Lower Insomnia Risk Associated with Vegetarian Diet

by Ella

Insomnia, a prevalent sleep disorder affecting many, has been linked to various health risks, including cardiovascular disease, stroke, abnormal blood lipid profiles, diabetes, anxiety, and depression. Furthermore, it can adversely impact the overall quality of life, cognitive functions, work productivity, and increase the risk of accidents. While cognitive behavioral therapy and sedative-hypnotic drugs remain effective treatments, challenges such as accessibility, adherence, cost, and potential side effects highlight the necessity of identifying lifestyle factors to mitigate insomnia risk.

Recent research indicates a potential connection between dietary patterns and insomnia risk, specifically noting the benefits of adherence to the Mediterranean diet in improving sleep quality. The study explores the relationship between plant-based dietary patterns and the risk of insomnia.


Study Design and Participants

Conducted on 5,821 participants from The Tzu Chi Health Study, a prospective cohort study spanning from 2007 to 2018, participants were advised to adopt plant-based (vegetarian) diets while abstaining from smoking and alcohol. Healthful Plant-Based Index (hPDI) scores were calculated to assess adherence to a healthy plant-based diet, with higher scores reflecting increased consumption of healthful plant foods and reduced intake of unhealthful plant foods and animal products.


Key Findings

Analysis of the participants revealed that approximately 29% were vegetarians, exhibiting higher hPDI scores than non-vegetarians. Vegetarians displayed a dietary pattern characterized by increased intake of healthy and unhealthy plant-based foods and decreased consumption of animal-based foods compared to non-vegetarians. Notably, female vegetarians exhibited lower dairy product consumption, and meat consumption was low among non-vegetarian participants.


Over the study period, 464 incident cases of insomnia were identified. After adjusting for potential confounders, the study revealed a lower risk of insomnia among vegetarians compared to non-vegetarians. Specifically, male participants with the highest hPDI scores demonstrated a significantly lower risk of insomnia. However, no such association was observed among female participants.


Dietary Associations with Insomnia Risk

The study highlighted a significant association between the consumption of healthful plant-based foods and a reduced risk of insomnia, particularly among male participants. Conversely, the consumption of animal-based foods was linked to a significantly increased risk of insomnia, again observed primarily among male participants. Among females, the consumption of both healthful and unhealthful plant-based foods marginally reduced the risk of insomnia.

Significance of the Study
The findings of this study suggest that individuals adhering to plant-based diets may experience a lower risk of insomnia. The researchers posit that vegetarian diets, rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts, may contribute to improved sleep quality. These plant-based foods are abundant in tryptophan and melatonin, precursors to vital sleep-regulating hormones. Moreover, evidence suggests that vegetarian diets contribute to reduced inflammation and improved gut microbial composition, collectively enhancing sleep quality.

In conclusion, this study underscores the potential benefits of plant-based diets in mitigating the risk of insomnia, offering valuable insights into the role of dietary choices in promoting better sleep quality and overall well-being.



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