Lack of rest leads to poor food decision-making: study

Berkeley, CA – People are more likely to choose unhealthy foods after being sleep-deprived, concludes a new study from the University of California, Berkeley.

Using MRI technology, researchers compared the brain activity and food choices of 23 healthy young adults after a normal night’s rest and a night of little rest. The scans showed that lack of sleep was associated with reduced activity in the frontal lobe – which is the part of the brain that helps people make complex decisions – but increased activity in the region of the brain that responds to incentives, according to a UC Berkeley press release. Also, when presented with images of vegetables, fruit, burgers, pizza and doughnuts, sleep-deprived people were more likely to crave the high-calorie foods.

Researchers concluded that the frontal lobe becomes “blunted” by sleep deprivation, leading people to desire high-calorie foods. Conversely, they said, being well-rested can give the brain the boost it needs to make healthier food decisions.

The study was published online Aug. 6 in the journal Nature Communications.