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Poor sleep increases snack cravings


A new US study has found that unhealthy snack foods become more tempting after a bad night’s sleep.

The study looked at the eating habits of sixteen healthy participants over a two-week period, during which time their sleep patterns and duration were closely controlled at the University of Colorado’s in-house sleep suite. Over the course of the first three nights each of the volunteers were allowed to sleep for up to nine hours, slightly more than the typically recommended ‘optimum’ time. Following that, for the next five nights the group was split into two, with one restricted to just five hours of sleep per night and the other allowed to remain on the nine hour schedule. During the daytimes of this period both groups were allowed larger portioned meals along with unlimited access to snacks – unhealthy and healthy. The sleep schedules of both groups were swapped for the remaining five nights of the experiment, with the same food and snacks on offer.

It was found that the short-sleep group invariably would consume more calories (average 6%) than the group that had slept longer. The order of this consumption also proved interesting, as the sleep deprived participants’ breakfasts tended to be smaller – indicating that the demand for energy wasn’t immediate – but evening snacks were eaten to the extent that they delivered more calories than any single meal throughout the day.

The findings, while taken from a relatively small-scale investigation, lend further credibility to the assertion that poor sleep may be a direct contributor to bad diets and ultimately weight gain.

The results of the study were published in the US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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