How Lack of Sleep Affects Junk Food Cravings

We all know how important it is to obtain a good night’s sleep on a regular basis, but the CDC estimates that 1/3 of adults do not get enough sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation is linked to an increased risk of acquiring undesirable illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke, so getting at least seven hours of sleep per night is suggested. But it’s not just the body that suffers from a lack of sleep; mental distress and poor decision-making are also side effects. When some of those choices involve what you eat and drink, the physiological consequences of sleep quality and length are amplified.


The connection between sleep and junk food desires was investigated in a 2012 Swedish study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. They noted that sleep loss is known to increase hunger and food intake, therefore they speculated that fatigued people are more sensitive to high-calorie foods’ “rewarding food cues.” They discovered that participants who had acute sleep loss (those who were not allowed to sleep as much as the others) reported higher hunger and had brain alterations that demonstrated enhanced activity in response to food imagery after the research period.

The longer you go without sleep, the worse things get. According to the findings, prolonged durations of insufficient sleep result in a higher reward response in anticipation of meals. These changes may trigger hedonic impulses to eat unhealthy foods in higher quantities than is necessary.

According to the researchers, these findings could point to a potentially key mechanism that is contributing to Western society’s rising obesity rates. In other words, we don’t get enough sleep, which could be one of the reasons we’re all gaining weight.


A study published in the journal eLife in 2019 by Northwestern University looked into why humans seek junk food after a bad night’s sleep. Sleep deprivation, like the Swedish study, has an impact on food consumption and is linked to a predilection for high-calorie foods. However, it was discovered that our noses are to blame.

The olfactory sense kicks into overdrive to recognise food when we’re weary, according to the study. It also modifies how it communicates with the brain, causing our nose to direct us toward more energy-dense options in our decision-making. This could explain why when we’re fatigued, we’re more vulnerable to attractive aromas. Consider the adverts and cartoons that show individuals rising from their beds on a string as their noses follow drifting odours of olfactory delights such as bacon and coffee.

The researchers found that people who slept less were more prone to snack during the day, eating not only more but also higher-calorie meals.

The study’s principal author, Thorsten Kahnt, an assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, said, “We discovered individuals adjusted their dietary choices.” “They ate foods with higher energy density (more calories per gramme) after being sleep deprived, such as doughnuts, chocolate chip cookies, and potato chips.”


So, if you want to stop craving junk food, start by getting a decent night’s sleep. You’ll not only make better meal choices the next day, but you’ll feel less susceptible to the allure of sugary, high-fat foods in general if you keep it up. This can help you avoid gaining weight and illnesses including diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

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