Do you find it hard to resist burgers, pizzas and unhealthy snacks throughout the day? If so, then you might benefit from taking a closer look at your sleeping habits, as new research suggests a good night’s sleep could stop you reaching for the nearest oven-ready pizza or bag of potato chips.

Study Looks At Impact of Poor Sleep on Diet

Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley set out to investigate the links between poor sleep and eating habits. They recruited 23 healthy young adults and carried out MRI scans on their brains, first after a normal night’s sleep and again after a sleepless one.

say no to unhealthy junk food

During the scans, participants were shown 80 images of different foods with varying levels of calories and overall healthfulness. They were asked to rate their desire for each of the food items and were promised the food they craved the most after their scans.

The researchers discovered differences in activity between well-rested brains and sleepless ones. In particular, tired brains revealed impaired activity in the frontal lobe – the part of the brain that’s responsible for complex decision-making. In addition, sleep-deprived brains displayed increased activity in parts of the brain that respond to rewards.

What we have discovered is that high-level brain regions required for complex judgments and decisions become blunted by a lack of sleep, while more primal brain structures that control motivation and desire are amplified

– Dr. Matthew Walker
Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience, UC Berkeley and senior author of the study

Study Looks At Impact of Poor Sleep on Diet

The researchers also noticed that people were more likely to choose unhealthy snack and junk foods when they were tired. The findings suggest that even one sleepless night could increase people’s inclination to eat foods such as high-calorie pizzas, doughnuts and burgers, while making them less inclined to consume fruits and vegetables. Dr. Walker confirmed:

High-calorie foods became significantly more desirable when participants were sleep-deprived. This combination of altered brain activity and decision-making may help explain why people who sleep less also tend to be overweight or obese.

– Dr. Matthew Walker

Better Sleep Could Aid Weight Loss

The findings are not all bad news, as they suggest that you may be able to speed up your weight loss or avoid piling on extra pounds by ensuring you get plenty of shuteye. Dr. Walker claimed:

Getting enough sleep is one factor that can help promote weight control by priming the brain mechanisms governing appropriate food choices.

So other than trying to go to bed earlier each night, how can you improve the quality of your sleep? Here are some simple tips to help you get more sleep at night:

man reading book before sleep
  1. Try to relax before bedtime, rather than working right up to the moment you get into bed
  2. Make sure your bedroom is not too hot, cold, noisy or bright
  3. Don’t nap during the day as this will mean you sleep less at night
  4. Do not consume caffeine, nicotine, alcohol or heavy meals late at night
  5. Avoid exercising within four hours of bedtime. Try to exercise in the middle of the day instead
  6. If you wake up during the night, try not to look at the clock as this could harm your attempts to go back to sleep

For more information on the study, take a look at the research in the journal Nature Communications.[1]

Michael Donelly

About Michael Donelly

Michael Donelly is Gnet's founder and occasionally posts information. If you'd like to get in touch about anything business related you can contact him on Twitter: @MichaelDonelly2. And if you like what you read here then why not sign up for our newsletter to get regular updates on your interests?

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