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A Bad Night’s Sleep Linked With Increased Food Intake

The far-reaching consequences of a good (or bad) night’s sleep seem to include food consumption: a new study published in the Journal of Health Psychology (JHP) suggests that disrupted sleep patterns might lead to the tendency of consuming more food than usual, thereby exposing the person to long-term chronic health problems. The study takes into consideration the links between sleep and food intake in both children and adults.

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According to the new study, a bad night’s sleep will impact on one’s eating habits as well as one one’s behaviour negatively. But, how does lack of good sleep affect our food choices and consumption?

“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”, said the authors Alyssa Lundahl and Timothy D Nelson of the University of Nebraska- Lincoln, USA.

The authors believe that “understanding the mechanisms linking disrupted sleep patterns to increased food intake is important for informing both prevention and treatment interventions for chronic health conditions.”

The mechanisms behind food intake, including biological, emotional, cognitive and environmental factors, are allegedly modified by sleep patterns. For instance, a bad night’s sleep affects the hormone controlling appetite, causing greater emotional stress, leading to more craving for food to make do for the lack of energy. Furthermore, one also tends to become more impulsive such that one is prone to eating more than usual.

As a conclusion, the authors write: “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 the journal 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.”

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