Are you having trouble with too many junk-food cravings? Well, that might be a sign that your brain is overtired. When you don’t get enough sleep at night, your brain becomes your healthy diet’s worst enemy. Whether you have a weak spot for burgers and chips or not, the cravings for high calorie foods become stronger when we are deprived of those precious ZZZs.
Scientists in the United States recently put this to test by comparing the brain patterns of sleep-deprived individuals to the brain patterns of well-rested individuals to see if they responded differently to images of junk food and healthy food. What they found in their research was that the reward centres for sleep-deprived individuals reacted far more intensely to images of junk food than to images of healthy food.
Getting less than six hours of sleep per night triggers hormonal changes in your body which can affect your eating habits. One change that occurs is an increase in the level of ghrelin, a hormone that causes you to feel hungry. When your ghrelin levels are higher, high-calorie foods (aka junk food) become much more appealing to the reward centres in your brain. When you crave these unhealthy foods, you put yourself at more risk to put on those unwanted kilos. It may take a little bit of self control, but getting enough sleep at night is a good place to start when you are trying to stay fit and eat healthy.
So next time you start craving a late-night burger, just remember it could be your brain saying it needs some sleep. Instead of venturing out for some fast food, try sleeping off those cravings, burn some calories while you sleep, and wake up to a healthy breakfast in the morning.