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Approved Research

Understanding the associations between sleep, diet, mental health and cognition

Principal Investigator: Dr Piril Hepsomali
Approved Research ID: 61818
Approval date: July 27th 2020

Lay summary

The aim of this research is to investigate associations between sleep, mental health, cognition and diet. We will also examine the role of  sociodemographic factors and female specific factors in our analysis. The investigation will take 6 months to complete.

Good sleep health/quality could be defined as increased sleep satisfaction, appropriate sleep timing, adequate sleep duration, high sleep efficiency, and high alertness during waking hours. It is linked to an increased risk for other conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, obesity, mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. It is also known that lack of sleep can affect attention, which can have serious consequences for driving, operating machinery.  In addition, a poor diet which does not provide the right nutrients, may also affect sleep, anxiety levels and the ability to concentrate. The combination of all these factors is of major concern to a society's health and wellness.

It has been estimated that the economic loss of sleep deprivation is up to £40 billion in the UK  (RAND, n.d. ). Sleep deprivation is linked to lower work productivity, a higher mortality risk and multiple other factors associated with shorter sleep duration.  (e.g. obesity, excessive alcohol and sugary drink consumption, smoking, lack of physical activity, mental health problems, stress at work, shift work/irregular working hours, financial concerns, and long commuting).

In contrast the benefits of a good night's sleep are indisputable, including better learning and creativity, productive work, less reliance on unhealthy compensatory interventions (e.g. caffeine, sugary foods, alcohol, smoking, sleeping tablets), more motivation for regular exercise and general increase in well-being.

In summary, by investigating links between our research topics, we will improve our understanding of sleep to create relevant  public health guidance/policy and education and tailored solutions to segments of society with the aim of optimising sleep. It has been calculated that even if only 50-60 % of individuals increased their sleep amount this could save tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in terms of health costs and lives (Pandi-Perumal, 2018).