Sleeping Less Than 6 Hours Increases Processed Food Consumption
Recent research has shown a correlation between a lack of sleep with increased consumption of sugary, caffeinated beverages (1). In the study, they analyzed data from 18,799 adults who self reported sleep duration’s and completed two 24 hour dietary recalls. Out of the 18,799 adults, 13% slept five hours or less. The group of people who slept five hours or less had a 21% increased in sugary caffeinated beverages. I believe a lack of sleep rewires our brain and makes us crave processed foods. But does research support this theory?
Eleven healthy participants took part in two 14-day laboratory stays where they were given access to as much food as possible with either 5.5 hour or 8.5 hour sleep schedules. The goal of the study was to measure and compare calories consumed from meals and snacks between the two sleep schedules.
By the end of the study the scientists found that the sleep-restricted group had consumed significantly more calories from snacks, and had consumed a higher percentage of carbohydrates before bed (2). From these results the scientists concluded that a sleep-restricted schedule in an obesity-promoting environment may cause the excessive consumption of calories from snacks, but not meals(2).
The scientists also measured the subjects ghrelin (hunger hormone) levels. However, there was no difference between the groups. This lack of ghrelin could explain why the meal frequency did not increase. But if the hunger hormone didn’t increase, then why did they find a significant difference in snacking between the sleep schedules?
Sleep Deprivation Increases Snacking
Thirty subjects took part in a study where they followed two different sleep schedules. The first phase required the subjects to sleep four hours per night, while the second phase required them to sleep nine hours. Each phase lasted six days and on the last day a functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) was used to determine how the subjects’ brain reacted to food.
The results showed increased neural activity in the response to food after sleep restriction (3). Also, they found increased activation in brain regions that are responsible for reward and pleasure in the sleep restricted group (3). The increase in pleasure seeking behavior could be the reason why they consumed more calories from snacks. Based on the studies above, I believe a lack of sleep will put you at a higher risk for increased snacking. So put down the phone, turn off the television, and get your eight hours of sleep.