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Lack of Sleep Leads to Overeating

In recent years, sleep has become a hot topic in the health world. Sleep is essential to muscle growth after workouts, being the time when muscles recover and repair.

Sleep is important for digestion, given it is when the digestive system is most active. Sleep helps mental health given the mind needs rest and recovery just like the body.

Consistent sleep is important to maintaining a healthy weight.  A recent study from the scientific journal, Nature Communications, suggested that a lack of sleep leads to overeating the next day. Dr. Walker and his colleagues took a sample of healthy men and women and assigned them sleep regiments. The people in the sample taken into the lab and hooked up to a brain scanner to monitor activity. They were shown images of food on a projector and were asked which food items they craved and which ones they didn’t.

    Dr. Walker found that the people who had been sleep-deprived not only craved more food, but the food they desired most were calorie-rich, like chocolate and potato chips. The part of the brain called the amygdala, which regulates basic emotions and desires, was more active among the sleep-deprived people and the frontal lobe, which regulates complex emotions and decision-making, was less active.

    The greater desire for caloric food may be due to hedonic urges, suggesting that sleep-deprived people are seeking pleasure denied to them by a lack of rest. A lack of sleep can lead to greater anxiety, so over-eating may be an attempt at relaxation to lower that anxiety. Dr. Walker and his colleagues suggested that the most likely explanation for this over-eating is over-compensation for the body not having gotten enough time to recover and digest. The extra calories, protein and fat consumed are attempts at giving quick-burning energy to a body that has not gotten what it needs.

    Consistent sleep can be hard to get. It could be from a busy lifestyle, too much anxiety, or a poor diet. But with getting regular exercise and eating a proper diet, getting enough sleep has become the third pillar to a healthy lifestyle.

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