Have you ever found yourself reaching for unhealthy foods after a sleepless night? A recent study published in the journal Nature Communications scanned the brains of 23 healthy young adults using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and found impaired activity in the brain’s frontal lobe, which functions in decision making. They also found increased activity in brain regions that respond to rewards. Sleep-deprived participants were also more likely to choose unhealthy snacks and junk food compared to those who had a normal night’s sleep.
“What we have discovered is that high-level brain regions required for complex judgments and decisions become blunted by a lack of sleep, while more primal brain structures that control motivation and desire are amplified,” stated Matthew Walker, lead author and professor of psychology and neuroscience at UC Berkley. “High-calorie foods also became significantly more desirable when participants were sleep deprived. This combination of altered brain activity and decision making may help explain why people who sleep less also tend to be overweight or obese.”
Sleep deprivation affects more than our cravings. Chronic lack of sleep worsens almost any health condition. The body restores itself as we sleep. Forgoing this vital restoration means your health will suffer. Sleep well and you will crave less. That sounds like a good reason to get your zzz’s to me.