The research was recently undertaken by scientists at the University of Cologne and was published in the Journal of Neuroscience. Professor Jan Peters, a co-author of the study, told The Guardian that the data collected from the study brings him closer to understanding the mechanism behind how sleep deprivation changes food valuation.
The study was carried out under controlled test conditions on 32 participants. The participants were fed the same foods, but divided into two different groups (good sleep and no sleep), and were monitored via sleep tracking devices, blood sugar tests, hormone tests, fMRI scans and interviews to determine how they felt towards food. The groups were then reversed a week later.
The results showed that regardless of group, participants felt similar levels of hunger in the morning and had similar levels of most hormones and blood sugar. However, sleep-deprived participants were willing to pay more for a tasty junk food snack than those who were well-rested. The sleep-deprived group also had higher levels of des–acyl ghrelin in their blood, a substance which is related to the “hunger hormone” ghrelin. The fMRI also found greater activity in the brains ‘food rewards’ area in participants who were sleep-deprived.
The research indicates that a bad night’s sleep can increase your cravings for junk food.
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