A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression on the effects of carbohydrates on sleep

Angelos Vlahoyiannis, Christoforos D. Giannaki, Giorgos K. Sakkas, George Aphamis, Eleni Andreou

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


This study aimed to assess the effects of quantity, quality and periodization of carbohydrates consumption on sleep. PubMed, SCOPUS and Cochrane Library were searched through October 2020. Data were pooled using random-effects meta-analysis. Eleven articles were included in the meta-analysis which consisted of 27 separate nutrition trials, resulting in 16 comparison data sets (sleep quantity n = 11; sleep quality n = 5). Compared to high carbohydrate (HCI), low carbohydrate intake (LCI) moderately increased duration and proportion of N3 sleep stage (ES = 0.37; 95% CI = 0.18, 0.56; p < 0.001 and ES = 0.51; 95% CI = 0.33, 0.69; p < 0.001, respectively). HCI prolonged rapid eye movement (REM) stage duration (ES = −0.38; 95% CI = 0.05, −8.05; p < 0.001) and proportion (ES = −0.46; 95% CI = −0.83, −0.01; p < 0.001), compared to LCI. The quality of carbohydrate intake did not affect sleep stages. Meta-regression showed that the effectiveness of carbohydrate quantity and quality in sleep onset latency was significantly explained by alterations of carbohydrate intake as a percentage of daily energy intake (R2 = 25.87, p = 0.018) and alterations in the glycemic load (R2 = 50.8, p = 0.048), respectively. Alterations in glycemic load partially explained the variance of the effectiveness of carbohydrate quality in sleep efficiency (R2 = 89.2, p < 0.001) and wake after sleep onset (R2 = 64.9, p = 0.018). Carbohydrate quantity was shown to affect sleep architecture, and especially N3 and REM sleep stages. Alterations in both quantity and quality of carbohydrate intake showed a significant effect on sleep initiation. Variations in carbohydrate quality significantly affected measures of sleep continuation. Further studies are needed to assess the effect of long-term carbohydrate interventions on sleep.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1283
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Actigraphy
  • Glycemic index
  • Glycemic load
  • Nutrition
  • Polysomnography
  • Sleep


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