Not Getting Enough Sleep Makes Junk Food More Appealing

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Not Getting Enough Sleep Makes Junk Food More Appealing
Not Getting Enough Sleep Makes Junk Food More Appealing

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Not getting enough sleep makes junk food more appealing

It has previously been suggested that sleep disturbances can affect hormone levels, leading to changes in feelings of hunger or satiety. New research has shown other mechanisms behind this problem.

Not getting enough sleep makes junk food more appealing
Not getting enough sleep makes junk food more appealing

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Even one sleepless night makes people look at unhealthy food more favorably, according to researchers at the University of Cologne.

Previous research has shown that lack of sleep is associated with increased waist size; it has been suggested that sleep disturbances may affect hormone levels, leading to changes in feelings of hunger or satiety.

However, according to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the role of hormones is negligible, and may be due to changes in activity within and between brain regions involved in reward and regulation.

“Our data brings us a little closer to understanding the mechanism underlying how sleep deprivation alters food value,” said Professor Jan Peters, one of the study's authors.

The study participants were 32 healthy men aged 19 to 33 years. They were given the same lunch of pasta, veal, apple, and strawberry yogurt, then one group of participants (with a sleep tracker) went home to bed while the other stayed awake in the lab all night.

The next morning they had their blood sugar and some hormones related to stress and appetite measured. They also showed photographs of 24 snacks and 24 inedible items, which were asked to rate on a scale of 0 to 3 euros.

During a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scan, participants were asked to choose whether they would actually buy it after the price was set, allowing researchers to look at brain activity when looking at pictures of food and other items.

A week later, the experiment was repeated, only another group of participants was awake.

The results showed that everyone was equally hungry in the morning and had similar levels of most hormones and blood sugar. However, participants who spent a sleepless night were willing to pay more for food and had higher blood levels of desacylgrelin, a substance associated with the "hunger hormone" ghrelin.

FMRI showed higher activity in the amygdala (processing food rewards) when displaying food images in the absence of sleep, as well as a stronger relationship between the price people are willing to pay for food and activity in the hypothalamus (participation in regulating consumption) …

But the researchers found no link between individual changes in deacylgreline levels and any differences in brain or behavior. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the levels were very high, and all participants were equally hungry. This suggested that changes in brain activity in response to food imaging after a night's sleep deprivation were not just hormones. Research findings suggest hedonic, not hormonal, mechanisms to increase the value of food.

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