Lack of Sleep May Make You Crave Junk Food

Not sleeping enough could make your brain want pizza.
Getting too few hours of sleep a night could up your desire for fatty, sugary foods. (Photo: The Image Bank/Getty Images)
Jun 11, 2012
Jeannine Stein, a California native, wrote about health for the Los Angeles Times. In her pursuit of a healthy lifestyle she has taken countless fitness classes, hiked in Nepal and got in a boxing ring.

Craving a pizza with everything? You might be able to blame it on a lack of sleep.

Not sleeping enough may cause our brains to go for unhealthful foods over more wholesome chow, a small study finds. The research, presented recently at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in Boston, used functional MRIs to see what types of foods make fatigued and well-rested brains light up.

Normal-weight men and women who slept four hours and then nine hours a night were given MRIs while being shown photos of unhealthy foods (candy and pepperoni pizza), healthy foods (fruits and vegetables) and neutral objects (office supplies).

The short-sleep stint produced more activity in particular brain regions such as the insula and the hypothalmus when subjects were shown the unhealthful foods compared with the healthy foods.

After nine hours of sleep, the same heightened brain activity wasn’t seen when the unhealthy food was displayed.

The insula, located in the cerebral cortex, is linked with mindful urges for things like food. The hypothalamus plays a part in number of bodily functions, including regulating hunger and thirst.

The results could explain in part, the researchers said, why we feel compelled to gorge on foods high in fat and sugar after only getting a few hours of sleep.

Do you find yourself reaching for that gallon of mint chocolate chip ice cream after too little sleep? 

Show Comments ()

More on TakePart

A Start-up Builds on New Orleans’ Culinary Foundation