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26 Jun, 2022
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Craving For Junk Food? It Might Be a Sign of Lack of Sleep!

According to the CDC, it is very important to have a good night’s sleep regularly, but one-third of adults do not get enough sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation is associated with an increased risk of developing unhealthy conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke, so at least 7 hours of sleep every night is recommended.

But it’s not just that the body that suffers. Too little sleep can lead to mental stress, craving food but not hungry kinda feeling, and poor decision making. Keep in mind that some of these decisions include what you eat and drink, and the physical effects are exacerbated by the quality and duration of your sleep. 

The Link Between Sleep And Food Cravings

A 2012 Swedish study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism investigated the link between Sleep and craving for junk food. They found that intense craving for food effect your sleep. 

Therefore, they hypothesized that tired people are more sensitive to the rewarding food stimuli of high-calorie foods. After the study period, they reported an increase in hunger in participants with acute sleep loss (participants who were not allowed to sleep as much as other participants). They were activated in response to food images. They discovered that those food images showed changes in the brain. 

The longer you are sleep-deprived, the worse your sleep deprivation is. Research results suggest that more extended periods of sleep deprivation leads to more robust reward responses in anticipation of food. These changes can trigger the hedonic urge to consume unhealthy foods and eat more than necessary.

Researchers note that their findings may highlight potentially effective mechanisms that contributes to elevated levels of obesity especially in Western societies. In other words, we don’t get enough sleep, which can be the reason we gain weight.

Aromas Attract More When We Are Tired

A 2019 Northwestern University study published in eLife specifically looked at why you want junk food after a night of sleep deprivation. Like a Swedish study, it found that lack of Sleep affected food intake and was associated with a preference for high-calorie options. But it also found out that the nose was the cause indeed. 

According to researchers, when we are tired, the sensory system becomes high gear to identify food. It also changes the way it communicates with the brain so that our nose directs our decisions to more energy-dense options.

Maybe that’s why we feel sensitive to captivating scents when tired. Imagine a commercial or cartoon depicting people getting up from the bed like a string. Their noses are followed by the aroma of smells such as bacon and coffee.

In a study, researchers found that people with less sleep were more likely to snack throughout the day, choosing more foods and higher-calorie foods.

“We found that participants changed their diet,” said Tollsten Khant, assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University’s School of Fineberg School of Medicine and lead author of the study. “They ate energy-dense foods (high in calories per gram) such as donuts, chocolate chip cookies, and potato chips after lack of sleep,” the professor added. 


Therefore, if you want to get rid of those unnecessary junk food cravings, have a good night’s sleep. The next day, not only will you choose better food, but you will continue to be less susceptible to high-fat, high-sugar foods. It will also help prevent weight gain and related conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.


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