WE KNOW that epidemiological evidence supports a link between sleep loss and obesity. It is also generally believed that sleep deprivation increases our desire for food.
What is less well understood is the impact of sleep deprivation on the brain mechanisms controlling appetite.
A recently published study reports that sleep deprived individuals show greater brain activity in areas associated with the motivation to eat, and decreased activity in regions of the brain where choices related to food stimuli are evaluated.
Following sleep deprivation, this change in the profile of brain activity was further associated with a significant increase in the desire for high calorie foods that promote weight gain.
And the greater the severity of sleep loss, the greater the extent to which this desire for high calorie, weight gaining foods can be predicted.
The findings point to an explanatory scenario in which insufficient sleep may contribute to the development and maintenance of obesity:
- through diminished activity in areas the brain responsible for food selection
- combined with enhanced activity in areas associated with appetite
- resulting in the choice of foods most capable of triggering weight gain.
So, not only are we more actively motivated to eat after sleep deprivation, and less active in processing food stimuli, but we also tend to preference foods high in calories.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.