As if they needed any more excuse, new research suggests men need their sleep if they’re to live a long life.
Women, on the other hand, can live long lives despite poor sleep habits as long as they eat a diverse diet that includes vitamin B6 and plenty of vegetables.
Vitamin B6 can be found in food such as meat, bananas, nuts, garlic and pistachios.
Among other things, it allows the body to use and store energy from protein and carbohydrates.
The findings come from a study led by Melbourne-based Monash University which looked at how diet contributed to sleep quality and mortality among elderly men and women.
Emeritus Professor Mark Wahlqvist from Monash University said sleep played a more important role in men’s mortality than women’s.
“Poor sleep has been associated with increased morbidity and mortality including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease,” he said.
“We found that for both genders, poor sleep was strongly correlated with poor appetite and poor perceived health.”
But the researchers also found a significant relationship between a diverse diet and sleep, particularly in women.
“For women, good sleep only provides a survival advantage if they had a diverse diet,” said Professor Wahlqvist.
The study found women were almost twice as likely as men to sleep badly.
Women who were poor sleepers had a lower intake of vitamin B6 from food than those whose sleep was rated ‘fair’ or ‘good’.
Fair sleepers had lower iron intakes than good sleepers. Both men and women could improve their outlook by eating a more varied diet, the research said.
“Sufficient dietary diversity in men could offset the adverse effect on mortality of poor sleep while women need to make sure they are eating foods high in vitamin B6,” said Professor Walhqvist.
Participants in the study who did not sleep well were also less able to chew, had poor appetites, and did less physical activity.
“These characteristics could contribute to lower overall dietary quality and food and nutrient intake, especially for vegetables, protein-rich foods, and vitamin B6,’ Professor Wahlqvist said.
They may also contribute to the risk of death, either in their own right or together with problematic sleep.
Intervention focusing on education on healthy dietary practices in elderly people could improve sleep duration and provide more stable levels of health.”
The study was conducted on 1865 elderly men and women who were a part of the Nutrition and Health survey in Taiwan.
The data was collected from 1999-2000.