Not getting a good night’s sleep may leave you reaching for something sweet

Not getting a good night’s sleep may leave you reaching for something sweet

June 1, 2018 is officially National Donut Day. If you decide to indulge in this special day, you should first be aware of how your previous night’s sleep can impact whether or not you’re more inclined to eat a sweet treat.

In a 2013 study from University of California Berkley involving 23 adolescents, researchers conducted MRI scans of participants’ brains two times. During the primary scan, the individuals slept well and felt refreshed, while the following scan was taken after a restless night.

The researchers’ findings demonstrate that when not getting an adequate amount of sleep, the brain’s frontal lobe, which aids in considerate decision making, is impacted. Specifically, the study found that due to sleep withdrawal, the individuals were not able to make strong decisions. For example, they were shown 80 food images: food that was beneficial for their bodies and food that was not so healthy. The results expressed the research subjects prioritized unhealthy and increased calorie foods that they wanted or craved in the moment, such as burgers and donuts. Interestingly, this study explains when you don’t give yourself a full night’s rest, you feel physically tired, and you don’t always critically think through your thoughts since the brain cannot function at its best capability.

“In general, lack of sleep leads to decrease in leptin (appetite suppressant hormones) and an increase in ghrelin (hunger hormone),” says Dr. Tony Hampton, a family medicine physician with Advocate Medical Group. “In other words, if you don’t get enough sleep, you can expect to have a difficult time controlling your appetite for your favorite snacks. A decrease in sleep also leads to a decrease in your metabolism, so when you ingest your favorite junk foods, your chances of putting on additional pounds is greatly increased.”

Not getting enough shuteye also has a connection with obesity. A part of this reasoning is the contributing factor, junk food. Junk food, including doughnuts, is often a quick and easy solution because you don’t have to cook yourself a meal, but it is also usually high in fats and calories. The brain tends to yearn these foods when your body is not rested, according to the researchers.

“Finally, keep in mind that many of your favorite junk foods are made with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and consuming HFCS affects appetite control by increasing ghrelin serum levels and decreasing leptin activation. It’s a double impact: Poor appetite regulation from lack of sleep and high fructose corn syrup consumption lead to an over consumption of junk foods,” says Dr. Hampton.

The amount of sleep an individual requires differs from person to person, but the National Sleep Foundation recommends young adults, adults and the elderly get about seven to nine hours of sleep. They also suggest implementing a bedtime routine, exercising and eliminating technological devices from the bedroom.

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About the Author

Kelsey Andeway
Kelsey Andeway

Kelsey Andeway, health e-news contributor, is a public affairs intern at Advocate Health Care in Downers Grove. She is a senior at Loyola University Chicago earning a bachelor's degree in Communication Studies with a minor in Dance. In her free time, Kelsey enjoys dancing, baking, and taking long walks with her Chocolate Lab.