Bad Night’s Sleep Can Lead to Bad Eating

A new study suggests disruptive sleep is a factor that can lead to excessive food intake.

The paper, published in the Journal of Health Psychology (JHP), explores how a bad night’s sleep, something that affects millions of people worldwide, can affect eating habits and behaviors.

Researchers explain that while it is well-known that a bad night’s sleep can affect our ability to perform daily duties, less is known on how disrupted sleep can influence both our food choices and intake.

“It is well recognized that food intake is implicated in many chronic health issues including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, and diet is often a target of treatment to prevent the onset of these conditions,” commented researchers Alyssa Lundahl and Timothy D. Nelson, Ph.D., of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

However, they said, “understanding the mechanisms linking disrupted sleep patterns to increased food intake is important for informing both prevention and treatment interventions for chronic health conditions.”

Food intake is driven by biological, emotional, cognitive, and environmental factors. Though diet is important to consider in the treatment for chronic health disorders associated with food intake, a closer look should be given to how sleep affects these factors.

In the paper, Lundahl and Nelson argue that these mechanisms are heavily altered and influenced by sleep patterns. For example, after a bad night’s sleep, the hormone controlling appetite is affected, emotional stress is greater, more food is desired to compensate for lack of energy and impulsivity is increased, all of which affect the amount of food that you would consume in a day.

As a result, health psychologists should be mindful of the link between sleep and eating, and sleep should be actively considered in efforts to modify dietary behavior.

Dr. David Marks, editor of JHP, stated: “The research stimulated by Lundahl and Nelson has important treatment implications for health conditions often treated with dietary interventions and illustrates the need for research to empirically examine the underlying mechanisms of food intake.

“It is important for people to be aware the findings of this study so that if they suffering from lack of sleep, they can take greater care to consider the quality and quantity of food that they are consuming.”

Source: Sage Publications/EurekAlert!