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Published June 14, 2012, 11:30 PM

Hot Topics: Sleep deprivation, sweet breakfasts linked in studies

Do you find yourself reaching for doughnuts and other sweets after a short night of sleep? According to two new studies, a bad night’s sleep makes people less resistant to unhealthy foods, and even results in more pleasure from indulging.

By: Source: Health blog on MSNBC.com, INFORUM

Do you find yourself reaching for doughnuts and other sweets after a short night of sleep?

According to two new studies, a bad night’s sleep makes people less resistant to unhealthy foods, and even results in more pleasure from indulging.

In one study, researchers scanned people’s brains while the people looked at pictures of food. The “reward center” in sleep-deprived participants lit up more when they looked at unhealthy foods than at healthy foods, and also lit up more than the reward center of well-rested people looking at unhealthy foods.

“Our data strongly suggests that if you’re trying to control your weight, being sleep-deprived is not good for you,” said study researcher Marie-Pierre St-Onge of the New York Obesity Researcher Center.

In St-Onge’s study, 25 participants of normal weight spent five nights in a lab, alternating between getting nine hours of sleep, and four hours.

Participants were shown photos of foods generally perceived to be healthy (such as fruits, vegetables and oatmeal) and unhealthy (such as candy, pepperoni pizza and doughnuts).

The researchers found that when allowed to choose their own food, people ate 300 more calories per day, on average, after a night of four hours’ sleep.

In the other study, 16 participants were observed after getting either a full night’s sleep or staying awake for 24 hours. Participants were shown pictures of food and asked to rate their desire for that food.

Sleep-deprived people said they were more interested in the unhealthy foods, and brain scans also showed impaired activity in the frontal lobe and other brain regions associated with complex decision-making.

What SheSays: Whether or not that short night of sleep was your choice, start the day fresh with making a conscious effort to eat healthfully. Those doughnuts are only going to leave you feeling worse.

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