Following a Mediterranean diet can help improve sleep quality, new research has indicated.

The benefits of a Mediterranean diet (MD), which is made up of plant-based food including whole grains, fruit, vegetables, legumes and nuts, are already well established.

Good quality sleep, alongside a healthy diet, may reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.

A team of researchers wanted to examine in more detail the link between MD and sleep quality.

They reviewed 23 previous studies which evaluated this association.

Just over half were carried out on people living in France, Greece, Spain, and Cyprus.

Several studies found that people who generally stuck to MD experienced better sleep and slept for longer.

The review also showed that following MD was linked to a reduction in insomnia, daytime tiredness and changes to sleep duration.

Another key finding was that the link between sleep quality and following MD was seen in countries outside of the Mediterranean region.

Most of the studies were carried out on healthy adults, but several featured participants with breast cancer, multiple sclerosis (MS), obstructive sleep apnoea, and rheumatoid arthritis.

The studies indicated that people with these health conditions may also have improved sleep if they stick to MD.

They showed that insomnia among women with breast cancer and sleep apnoea was less likely when participants followed MD.

In addition, those with MS had less disturbed sleep.

This latest review found significant evidence that MD is linked to better quality sleep, which could be attributed to the benefits of MD on brain health.

Foods in MD contain antioxidant vitamins and polyphenols which may help lower inflammation.

Olive oil and fish, key components of MD, contain healthy unsaturated fatty acids.

Minerals such as magnesium and zinc, which are found in plant-based diets, can boost sleep regulation.

Additionally, those who follow MD tend to cook from scratch at home rather than consuming ready-made food and snacks.

This lowers their intake of long-chain saturated fatty acids and hydrogenated trans fats.

The researchers say more studies are needed to examine the causal effect of MD on sleep quality.

Read the study in the journal Nutrients.

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