Wednesday 24 August 2022
Hundreds of millions around the world suffer from insufficient and low quality sleep. A lack of quality sleep is more than an inconvenience, as research findings increasingly show that good sleep plays a key role in maintaining healthy minds and bodies, Psychology Today reported.
A lack of quality sleep leads to a wide range of consequences, from poor focus to poor mood, and can lead to changes in parts of the brain that promote poor food choices.
That’s why experts recommend getting enough quality sleep every night, and they recommend simple steps that include sticking to a consistent sleep schedule, keeping bedrooms dark and cool, and following a relaxing bedtime routine that limits exposure to artificial light to limited to the minimum.
One of the major consequences of sleep problems is that a previously unknown pathway can directly affect a person’s health through their dietary choices. Here are some of the main factors linking poor sleep to dietary choices:
Prefer unhealthy food
In a 2020 study, researchers tested whether there is a connection between poor sleep and people’s preference for sweet foods. After being well slept or deprived, participants were asked to taste five separate samples with varying amounts of added sugar.
The researchers discovered that the participants, who did not get enough sleep, had a stronger preference for sugary options. And the same group of participants, deprived of good sleep, tended to choose foods with more calories than carbohydrates for breakfast.
Fewer fruits and vegetables
Another 2022 study, published in the scientific journal Sleep, looked at the effect of lack of sleep on teenagers’ food preferences. The results revealed that among the teenagers who got 6.5 hours of sleep per night (versus 9.5 hours), there was a greater consumption of added sugars and carbohydrates and lower consumption of fruits and vegetables.
Once unhealthy food is eaten, the lack of sleep seems to make it difficult for the human body to process it. Specifically, poor quality sleep is linked to more difficulty handling dietary glucose, meaning higher blood sugar levels for longer periods of time, both of which can be dangerous for overall health and brain health.
In a review of studies published in 2018, researchers concluded that sleep restriction significantly increased hunger, calorie consumption and even weight gain. The same or similar results have also been replicated in other studies. A 2021 review of 50 separate studies concluded that sleep restriction leads to increased calorie intake, number of food intake, and amount of food eaten at each meal.
One of the biggest reasons why poor sleep is linked to changes in increased caloric intake may be related to certain hormones associated with appetite. It has been consistently proven that certain hormones secreted by the gut play a major role in hunger levels. Perhaps most importantly, high levels of a hormone called ghrelin are linked to increased hunger and calorie consumption.
Sleep deprives the brain
In one study, researchers discovered that compared to well-rested people, those who were sleep-deprived had increased activity in a part of their brain called the anterior cingulate cortex when they looked at pictures of food. This activation is directly related to human subjective hunger.
Other research has shown that poor sleep is linked to changes in brain activity in a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex, which plays a particularly important role in decisions about nutrition, as it is key to healthy self-control.
It is also interesting that good sleep promotes the elimination of accumulated waste in the brain. Recent research has shown that sleep deprivation significantly impairs this process. It is thought that the process of removing waste products can affect levels of inflammation in the brain, which is notable because higher inflammation is associated with more impulsive decision-making. Abnormalities of waste disposal in the brain due to lack of sleep have already been linked to long-term effects on brain health, but as scientific research expands, it may appear that there is an additional link between the effect of lack of sleep on brain function, which in day-to-day decision-making is reflected.
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