Warning: Sleep Deprivation May Cause Junk Food Cravings

Wondering what's behind your inability to resist all those cravings you've had lately for pizza, French fries and ice cream? It might very well have something to do with those late nights you've been keeping and the sleep you've been missing out on. According to one new study, people who aren't getting enough sleep tend to crave higher-calorie foods.

The study included 12 participants, ages 19 to 45, who did not suffer from sleep disorders. Using functional MRI (fMRI) scans, researchers observed the activity in the brain's prefrontal cortex, which inhibits behavior, and measured sleepiness with a standardized scale that accounts for the number of times a person doses off during activities such as reading or watching television. Results revealed that not only did sleepier people report feeling more hungry, they also showed that sleepier participants demonstrated decreased activation in the prefrontal cortex when viewing pictures of fattier foods compared to healthy alternatives. These results indicated that people who are more tired are less likely to resist junk food cravings. While the study is preliminary and additional research is necessary, these findings help to further clarify the relationship between sleep and food.