Have you ever noticed that when you are tired you tend to eat more? Or when you go to the grocery store tired, you tend to buy more, or just can’t resist that candy bar at the checkout counter?
While it is not an excuse to indulge, when we are sleep deprived, there is now a reason to explain why this occurs.
Research scientists looked at the effect of sleep and lack of sleep on the brain, and the perception of hunger. The study was done on normal weight individuals who were tested after a normal night of sleep and then again after a night without any sleep. For the testing, researchers surveyed the participants as to whether or not they were hungry, and then scanned their brains while looking at images of food. They then surveyed them again as to how hungry they were after the images and scanning.
After one night of no sleep, the scans showed a higher level of activity in the area of the brain responsible for hunger. This was not seen in the individuals who slept normally. The response was independent of how hungry the subject claimed that they were before scanning.
Also interestingly, after looking at the images of the food, the subjects who went without sleep reported that they were now hungrier than those who had been allowed to sleep the night before. Blood sugar levels taken before and after the participants looked at the images of food were the same.
So sleep loss resulted in what the scientists referred to as “hedonistic stimulus processing”. They had a heightened desire to eat independent of a physiologic need.
So what is the take-home message here?
Lack of sleep can increase your perceived hunger regardless of your actual need to eat. This in turn could derail any efforts you have made regarding your weight or healthy eating habits.
So the bottom line is going to the grocery store or watching food TV while you are sleep deprived will increase your perceived hunger, and will likely lead to real weight gain.
Just one more reason to make sleep a priority in your life.