Trying to become an early bird? You may want to have a check on your diet as scientists say what you eat could decide your sleep timing.

There are several studies on ways to improve sleep as adequate sleep not only provides rest and recovery but also protects people from many long-term health issues such as stress, heart issues and diabetes.

In a new study conducted among a group of 23 female college athletes, researchers evaluated how the time of sleep is influenced by their nutrient consumption. The findings suggest that the athletes who took more carbohydrates and vitamins B12 and C went to sleep earlier and woke up earlier compared to those who consumed less of these nutrients.

Researchers say it might be because these nutrients help in the synthesis of vital hormones that regulate sleep, including serotonin and melatonin.

"For athletes, success is measured not only by the readiness to perform but also resiliency on and off the field," Lauren Rentz, the study's first author and a doctoral student at West Virginia University, said. "We know that sleep helps the body heal from daily physical and mental stress and influences future physical and mental performance. The relationship between sleep and nutrient intake hasn't been researched as thoroughly in high-performing athletes, who consistently experience large amounts of stress."

The athletes wore smart rings that tracked their sleep for 31 consecutive nights during the competitive season. The dietary intake of the participants was also recorded on the last three days of the evaluation.

Researchers found strong associations between nutrient consumption and sleep timing. However, they could not find connections with sleep duration as most of the participants slept for an average of seven to eight hours at night.

The study found that about half of the athletes had deficiencies in protein, vitamins A and K and almost all of them failed to consume recommended amounts of vitamin D and carbohydrates.

"The use of wearable technology has become very popular among athletes, and our study shows how wearable data can be used by practitioners or athletes themselves to become more in-tune with their health. Wearables are great for capturing the body's response to physiological stressors without adding more stress," Rentz said.

The study was presented at the American Physiology Summit, the flagship annual meeting of the American Physiological Society (APS), in Long Beach, California last weekend.

The researchers warn the study should not be interpreted as cause and effect, but it can indicate how various aspects of health can simultaneously contribute to performance and recovery potential in athletes.

The next step in the research will be to evaluate similar health patterns in a larger group of athletes to understand how these patterns can influence their success.

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Thanks to research, we now know that a good mattress is important in helping us maximize the restorative benefits of sleep. Unsplash (CC0)