sleep loss

New research suggests lack of shut-eye may trigger your body to crave extra calories.

Besides being groggy and moody — among a list of other downfalls — sleep deprivation may also be making us fat. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, lack of sleep may cause us to eat more and choose less nutritious foods.

Twelve healthy, normal-weight males were examined during two sessions: after a night of sleep and after a night of total sleep deprivation. On the morning after each night, the males viewed 30 images of high-caloric foods and 30 images of low-caloric foods while scientists recorded their brain activity.

Following a night of total sleep deprivation, study participants showed an eight percent increase in the activation of the right anterior cingulate cortex — a part of the brain that is associated with the desire to eat — and reported a greater increase in appetite, compared to when they had slept.

SleepIncreased activation in the part of the brain that controls hunger after a sleepless night.

“Poor sleep puts the body in a state of inflammation, and a lot of that is affected by different hormones [such as leptin and ghrelin, which control hunger levels] that are circulating throughout the body,” says Matthew Mingrone MD, EOS Sleep and Snoring Specialist in California.

Although the study highlighted one night of sleep deprivation, Mingrone stresses that cumulative sleep loss over time is just as bad as one sleepless night. “This is what we call sleep debt. If someone that physically needs 7 to 8 hours of sleep gets an hour less each night over a period of a week, they have lost a whole night’s sleep.”

If you find yourself losing an hour of sleep here and there, the desire to eat more and consume higher calorie foods is high. “Keeping a food journal or knowing exactly what your basal metabolic needs are can become quite helpful,” Mingrone says.

But if you think you’re clinically sleep deprived, Mingrone suggests seeking medical attention. “Sleep is an important pillar of health. I don’t think a lot of people realize that. It has a huge impact on how your body functions.”

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