If you are sleepy, you are more likely to crave junk food and eat it.
Researchers have found a connection between sleep deprivation and unhealthy food choices. The findings were presented at the annual meeting of Associated Professional Sleep Societies in Boston.
In a study from St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center and Columbia University, researchers investigated the effect of sleep on participants' food choices. 25 volunteers were recruited for the study. Researchers conducted brain scans on the volunteers when they were shown images of both healthy and unhealthy foods after five nights of sleep restriction (four hours or fewer)and five nights of regular sleep (up to nigh hours). Researchers found that when participants looked at pictures of unhealthy food, the reward centers in their brains were more active during a period of restricted sleep than when they slept regularly. In other words, when the participants were sleepy, they found unhealthy food highly rewarding and satisfying.
In a similar study from University of California at Berkeley, scientists didn’t find the relationship between reward center reaction and unhealthy foods. However, they found that restricted sleep had a negative impact on the regions in human brain that’s responsible for decision making. 23 healthy volunteers were enrolled in the study. Participants were conducted fMRIs twice: once after a night without any sleep and once after a night of normal sleep. The participants were shown pictures of different foods while being scanned. They were also asked to rate their desire for various food items. Researchers found that deprived sleep impaired the participant’s decision making ability. The sleepiness prevented the brain from analyzing the situation and making wise food choices.
These studies showed that insufficient sleep affects appetite regulation and decision making. Previous studies have also shown that sleep deprivation tend to make people eat more, and desire for sweet and salty food. Excess sweet and salty food can lead to many illnesses including hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. It is crucial to get enough sleep every night and to eat healthy foods. “This is especially important if you're trying to lose weight, because you may choose the wrong foods if you don't get enough sleep.” said Marie-Pierre St-Onge, a Research Associate with the New York Obesity Research Center.