Getting More Sleep Can Help Combat Junk Food Cravings(1)

Some days, those hunger pangs are a little hard to control. That bag of potato chips “mysteriously” becomes empty. And eating your apple a day? Only if it’s slathered in Nutella and peanut butter! Well, new research shows that sleep deprivation can lead to bad food choices and that skipping out on sleep can actually trigger cravings.(1)


Enter the Sleep Lab

For the study, researchers examined the effects of sleep deprivation on 14 healthy men and women during a series of two four-day visits to the lab. During the first visit, the study participants averaged 7.5 hours of sleep per night and during the second visit, 4.2 hours. During each visit, they received identical meals at 9 am, 2 pm and 7 pm.(1,2)

When they got less sleep, they wanted more food. Researchers offered the study participants snacks after the fourth night of restricted sleep and they had trouble stopping themselves from feasting and chose snacks that contained, on average, twice the amount of fat compared to the snacks they chose after the fourth night of the normal sleep phase. This was despite eating a large meal that met 90% of their daily calorie needs only two hours prior.(1,2)

Why so Snacky?

A research scientist at Abbott says, “There’s a lot of discussion around the impact of stress on our diets and daily habits, but this exciting research takes us one step further, unearthing the cognitive connection between sleep deprivation and the daily struggle with snacking,”(1)

“The study suggests that lack of sleep can trigger the brain to crave food when we’re not hungry, especially foods with higher fat content, and the results remind us that despite our busy and demanding lives, it’s important to give our bodies the nourishment and rest we need to stay healthy.”(1)

When sleep deprived, our levels of endocannabinoid jump at least 33% higher than when we get enough sleep. Plus, the levels stay elevated for hours throughout the late afternoon and evening. Endocannabinoids are the body’s own naturally produced version of cannabinoids, molecules that, in addition to other things, make you love overeating sweet, salty, high-fat foods.(2) So if you want to fight off junk food cravings and eat healthier, you should make sleep a priority!(1,2)