A bigger dinner decreases parasympathetic activity leading to less restorative sleep

Clunky title, I know. The study was comparing two different kcal distributions on autonomic nervous system activity and sleep (Tada et al., 2018).

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There were two conditions in this randomized crossover trial: breakfast/lunch/dinner calories either as 1:2:1 (the low-energy dinner group [LED] or 1:1:2 (the high-energy dinner group [HED]).

Then they were monitored overnight to assess autonomic nervous system activity and sleep.

What was the point of this study? The next step in the scientific method! Researchers have noticed correlations between dietary intake (meal size, not timing) and restorative/non-restorative sleep. So now they want to test if meal size directly influences sleep.

The authors extended the conclusions slightly beyond what the study was designed to test, imo. They previously noticed bigger dinners & poorer sleep during the luteal phase in women and this correlated with progesterone. But in this study they didn’t include the right controls to test that: luteal phase vs. follicular phase [and optionally, vs. men or postmenopausal women].

That said, I’m sure sex hormones definitely play a role here, it just wasn’t clearly teased out in this study.

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