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How lack of sleep affects the brain and may increase appetite, weight gain

A growing body of scientific research, including a 2004 Stanford study, shows that sleep duration is an important regulator of body weight and metabolism. Now findings recently published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism offer additional insight into the link between sleep deprivation, cognitive function and weight gain.

In the small study (subscription required), a European research team examined how regions in the brain known to be involved in appetite sensation are influenced by acute sleep loss. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), researchers compared the brain scans of normal-weight males while they viewed images of foods both after a night of normal sleep and a night without sleep. The results showed that the region of the brain that stimulates appetite was noticeably more active in participants after losing a night of sleep.

Uppsala University researcher Christian Benedict, PhD, commented on the connection between the findings and obesity rates in a release:

After a night of total sleep loss, these males showed a high level of activation in an area of the brain that is involved in a desire to eat. Bearing in mind that insufficient sleep is a growing problem in modern society, our results may explain why poor sleep habits can affect people’s risk to gain weight in the long run. It may therefore be important to sleep about eight hours every night to maintain a stable and healthy body weight.

Previously: Study shows link between lack of sleep and obesity in teen boys, Study: Staying up late tied to poor eating habits, weight gain and Sleep deprivation may increase young adults’ risk of mental distress, obesity
Photo by Ciaran McGuiggan

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