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Short on sleep? If so, steer clear of supermarkets and food shops, at least according to a new Swedish study that finds sleep deprivation can drive you to spend a lot of money on junk food.
It's already been established that even one night of bad sleep can lead to increased blood levels of ghrelin, a hormone that increases hunger the next day. But in findings published Sept. 5 in the journal Obesity, the researchers say that ghrelin levels weren't associated with food purchasing.
Rather, they posit that sleep deprivation could trigger other mechanisms, such as impulsive decision-making, which is why that giant bag of cheese puffs seems like such a good idea.
"We hypothesized that sleep deprivation's impact on hunger and decision making would make for the 'perfect storm' with regard to shopping and food purchasing leaving individuals hungrier and less capable of employing self-control and higher-level decision-making processes to avoid making impulsive, calorie-driven purchases," said first author Colin Chapman of Uppsala University in Sweden.
The research team recruited 14 healthy men to participate in two situations: stay awake for one night, then go grocery shopping the next morning, and secondly, sleep as usual and then go shopping.
Having only a fixed budget of 300 SEK (approximately $50), the men were instructed to purchase as much as they could out of a possible 40 items, including 20 junky foods and 20 healthier options. The prices of the fatty, high-caloric foods were then varied to determine if total sleep deprivation affects the flexibility of food purchasing. Before going shopping, the subjects consumed a normal breakfast. Findings showed that the tired men purchased significantly more calories and more food overall than they did after a night of normal sleep.
"Our findings provide a strong rationale for suggesting that patients with concerns regarding caloric intake and weight gain maintain a healthy, normal sleep schedule," said Chapman.
While the research shows the most extreme example of sleep deprivation, staying up all night, coming up a few hours short here and there could play a role in cutting into your resistance to fatty foods, a concept backed by previous research. In fact, a separate study announced last month from the University of California found evidence that a lack of sleep causes changes in brain activity that lead to people feeling hungrier and craving more fattening foods.