The Link Between Poor Sleep and Junk Food

Vending MachineNot sure why you feel like you just can’t live without that donut in the morning?  Your sleep may be to blame. Research shows that a poor night’s sleep may lead most people to make bad food choices the next day. Sustaining a healthy diet is just one more great reason to get your Zzzz’s.

In a recent study published in the journal Obesity, researchers found a strong link between sleep deprivation and the inclination to buy higher calorie foods at the grocery store. Researchers participating in this Swedish study from Uppsala University gave a group of normal-weight men a budget of approximately $50 and told them they could buy as much as they could of whatever snacks they wanted out of 40 different snack options. 20 of the options were low in calories and 20 of the options were high calories. The men went on this shopping trip twice; once after a bad night’s sleep and then once after a good night’s sleep.

To get the clearest results possible, the men were given a typical breakfast each morning so that hunger did not play a role while they shopped. After the men received a poor night’s sleep, they bought an average of 9 percent more calories and 18 percent more food than they did after they slept well. The researchers also discovered that the men had a higher amount of the hunger hormone, ghrelin, in their blood after they slept badly. This hormone made them feel hungrier and like they actually needed more food.

But, instead of hunger being to blame, the study suggests that impulse control, or decreased impulse control as the case may be, has a bigger affect on decision-making at the grocery store because they could find no link between the hunger hormone, ghrelin, and the amount or type of food the men purchased.  

Study author Colin Chapman, of Uppsala University, said in a journal news release, “Our finding provides a strong rationale for suggesting that patients with concerns regarding caloric intake and weight gain maintain a healthy, normal sleep schedule.”

This study is far from finished though. The researchers plan to continue to test subjects for varying degrees of sleep deprivation to see what effect different levels of poor sleep may have on food purchasing decisions. They may also decide to study how sleep deprivation may affect other non-food-related purchasing decisions.


Always consult your chiropractor or primary care physician for all your health related advice.

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Image Credit: Vending Machine by Tkraska. Used under a creative commons license.

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