Lack of Sleep Linked to Junk Food Cravings

Contributor
You may be craving junk food because of too little sleep

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

When we don't get enough sleep and the region of the brain that controls decision-making is impaired, we are more likely to choose unhealthy foods.

Lack of sleep may be why you’re reaching for junk food like pizza and donuts rather than fruits and vegetables, according to a study from UC Berkeley that looks at how the brain relates to food choices.

Examining the brains of 23 healthy young adults using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), UC Berkeley scientists found impaired activity in the sleep-deprived brain’s frontal lobe, the region that controls decision-making and increased activity in the deeper regions that respond to rewards. When the region of the brain required to make complex decisions was affected by lack of sleep, participants chose unhealthy foods over healthy options.

The combination of altered brain activity and decision-making could explain why people who sleep less tend to be overweight or obese, according to Matthew Walker, UC Berkeley professor of psychology and neuroscience, and senior author of the study.

This story was originally published on August 8, 2013.

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