Lifestyle & Belief

Lack of sleep leads to poor food choices, say studies


Two new studies from UC Berkeley found that a lack of sleep may lead to bad food choices.


Jeff J Mitchell

New studies show that a lack of sleep may increase the risk of poor diet choices.

The two studies, both from Berkeley's Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory, found that a lack of sleep triggers brain responses like anxiety that hinder our ability to make good eating choices.

According to Forbes, the first study saw scientists test 16 healthy adults ages 18 to 25 with MRI scans after a normal night of sleep and another in which the participants were sleep deprived.

They were then asked to rate their interest in 80 food items.

"We found regions associated with reward and motivation—those that are involved with addiction and pleasure-seeking behaviors—were more strongly activated in the short-sleep phase," said study author Marie-Pierre St-Onge of St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital Center and Columbia University, reported the Gothamist.

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She went on to say, according to a press release, “The same brain regions activated when unhealthy foods were presented were not involved when we presented healthy foods."

In the second study, MRIs were given to 23 sleep-deprived adults on regions of the brain where food choices are made.

The researchers found that a lack of sleep impaired the area in which food decisions are made.

“It seems to be about the regions higher up in the brain, specifically within the front lobe, failing to integrate all the different signals that help us normally make wise choices about what we should eat,” said lead researcher Stephanie Greer, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Previous research has shown links between obesity and a lack of sleep.

The findings were presented at SLEEP 2012, the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.