Ever worked an all-nighter and noticed a craving for junk food? According to new research, one lost night of sleep might be all it takes to lead to an unhealthy snack. It's the latest connection scientists have made between sleep quality and health conditions like obesity.
In the new study, researchers had more than 30 healthy male participants eat the same dinner. After the meal, participants either returned home or stayed at the lab, where they were kept awake all night. In the morning, researchers gave the participants money and told them to bid on junk food or other trinkets, while a scanner recorded their brain activity.
After just one night of sleep loss, people were more likely to spend more of their money on food, regardless of hormonal effects.
The study shows one possible way sleep deprivation may associate with obesity. Research into other possible connections has found that sleepy people might not have the energy to exercise, they may eat more calories because they're awake longer, or their lack of sleep could cause swings in the hormones that control their appetite.
Whatever causes are at play, the effects of insufficient sleep can be significant. One 16-year review of sleep habits in women found sleeping less than 5 hours per night increased their risk of obesity by 15 percent.