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Junk Food and Sleep

By Rachel Carver

A good night's sleep is essential to optimal function and good health. However, a third of adults get less than the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Consistent poor sleep increases your risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Sleep deprivation can also impair your decision-making. Extra stress and poor decision-making can cause us to reach for unhealthy foods, making things worse.

The Sleep Loss and Appetite Connection

A 2012 Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism study found that sleep deprivation may stimulate appetite and food intake, which makes us feel more warded by high-calorie foods. Participants who slept less than others during the study reported increased hunger and displayed changes in their brains that showed increased activation in response to food images. As sleep deprivation continues, junk food cravings increase. The study results suggested prolonged periods of inadequate sleep lead to a greater reward response in anticipation of food. Study results also found a possible link between increased weight gain in western society and prolonged sleep deprivation.

Enticing Aromas

A 2019 eLife journal study examined the reasons behind junk food cravings after a lack of sleep. In addition to wanting high-calorie foods, our olfactory system amps up when we are tired to identify food. The nose seeks out enticing aromas because it communicates differently with our brain when we lack sleep. Study participants who slept less were more likely to snack throughout the day. They also chose high-calorie foods such as chocolate chip cookies and potato chips.

The Bottom Line

If you regularly battle junk food cravings, try to prioritize your sleep. Here are some tips for sleeping better.

  • Establish a bedtime routine you can consistently follow
  • Find an unwind activity such as reading a book or hot shower that can relax your mind before bedtime
  • Prepare your sleep space with the proper pillow and mattress
  • Avoid alcohol and sugary snacks at least an hour before bed to prevent blood sugar spikes
  • Make a to-do list for the next day to empty your brain of all the random thoughts that might keep you up

A good night's sleep will help you make better food choices the next day. You will also have more energy for a busy schedule. Quality sleep helps your waistline as well as your overall health and wellness.

To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Fort Mill, S.C.

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