By: Victoria Northington
Christopher Newport University Senior | Biology Major
It has been recently discovered that people can naturally cut out sweets and junk food cravings by simply sleeping more. That’s right, SLEEP is the answer.
As people get older, hectic lives and work schedules have shortened the average amount of sleep per night to a measly 6 hours, instead of the recommended 8 or 9. It may seem like a small price to pay, however lack of sleep can have extremely negative effects on the body over time. By not getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night,
it puts adults at high risk for a multitude of health conditions. These conditions include “obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke” (Mathewson, 2018). In order to understand these risks more, scientists have conducted many sleep studies to understand exactly how the body responds when subjected to lack of sleep overtime.
At the St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center and Columbia University in New York, 25 volunteers were studied for 10 days. Within those 10 days, 5 days were days of deprivation where volunteers only were allowed 4 hours of sleep. The other 5 days were considered nights of normal sleep. Scientists observed the brain of the volunteers after the 5 days of deprivation as well as after the 5 days of normal sleep. Results showed that, when participants were shown pictures of unhealthy foods (pizza, cake, cheeseburgers), the pleasure center of the brain became much more active than when they were shown healthy foods such as salad. After the nights of normal sleep, researchers saw similar results except the participants were more receptive to the healthier foods. (Radcliffe, 2016)
In another study, researchers utilized 42 participants in which 21 served as the experimental group and 21 were the control group. In the experimental group, volunteers received 1.5 hours more of sleep per night. The control group did not have any changed sleep patterns. Participants were asked to keep a record of all sleep and dietary patterns for a period of 7 days. In addition to journals, volunteers wore motion sensors on their wrists so their time of sleep was more accurately documented. The results of the study showed that those who received the extra hour and a half of sleep a night had reduced their sugar intake by 10 grams the day immediately after their sleep. These participants also showed lower carbohydrate intake than the group that received less sleep. (Mathewson, 2018)
The main question still remains, how does sleep aid in curving cravings? Here are some ways that sleep has been said to aid in controlling eating habits:
A} Decision-Making Skills
Many people are unaware that sleep helps to regulate hormones, specifically our hunger hormone ghrelin. Ghrelin is responsible for triggering hunger and appetite. A study at the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort showed that, individuals that slept less than 8 hours have higher percentages of ghrelin than those who had a full 8 hours or more. (Stone, 2016)
C} Regulates Satiety Signaling
Not only do hormones tell our body when we are hungry but also when we are full. The hormone responsible for that satisfied feeling is called leptin. Individuals that receive less than 8 hours of sleep show reduced levels of leptin. Therefore, the body will not signal satiety and cause over-eating. (Stone, 2016)
Mathewson, S. (2018, January 09). Sleeping More May Curb Sugar Cravings, Really. Retrieved January 11, 2018, from https://www.livescience.com/61381-sleep-more-eat-better.html
Radcliffe, S. (2016, September 29). Lack of Sleep Increases Junk Food Cravings. Retrieved January 11, 2018, from https://www.mensfitness.com/nutrition/what-to-drink/lack-sleep-increases-junk-food-cravings
Stone, D. (2016, November 01). Why Getting More Sleep Can Stop Junk Food Cravings. Retrieved January 11, 2018, from https://www.shape.com/healthy-eating/diet-tips/more-sleep-means-fewer-junk-food-cravings%E2%80%94heres-why
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