Sleep Deprivation Makes You Eat Unhealthy Food, Study Finds

This week, stroke risk was linked to getting fewer than six hours of sleep a night, and now there’s more evidence that getting enough pillow time is of the utmost importance- it could be fueling late-night binging.

Yes, there’s a reason Taco Bell loudly blares that “fourthmeal” is available at their grease and salt-drenched emporiums until two or three in the morning- because people who are burning the midnight oil are far likelier to think anything called a “Mexican Pizza” is kind of a good idea right now.

Societally, we are apt to blame weight gain and obesity on poor willpower or lack of self-control, but it’s interesting how much we are learning that factors such as sleep deprivation (one that keeps getting linked to obesity) are influential when it comes to how much you weigh and the choices you make regarding what to put in your mouth.

Researchers at the annual Associated Professional Sleep Societies meeting presented information out of research at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center and Columbia University in New York. Marie-Pierre St-Onge and her team conducted a study in which 25 participants (defined as being of normal weight) were given MRIs while viewing images of food that was “healthy” and “unhealthy.”

The researchers did the MRIs on subjects in two groups- one who had gotten nine luxurious hours of sleep for five nights in a row, and the other, who had slept for just four hours in those five nights.

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And it turns out, in the sleep-deprived participants, reward centers of the brain were activated by the images of unhealthy food- and only those who were sleep deprived.

St-Onge explains:

“The results suggest that, under restricted sleep, individuals will find unhealthy foods highly salient and rewarding, which may lead to greater consumption of those foods.”

Researchers suggest combatting the temptation of fatty, sugary foods by avoiding sleep deprivation, as well as keeping healthier snack foods on hand.