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  • Writer's pictureDr. Sarah Penney, ND, MSc

Sleepless night? Stay away from the grocery store!

Your rule of thumb may already be to avoid the grocery store when you're hungry, but should you add sleep deprived to the list? A new study out of Sweden suggests this might be a good idea. The connection between sleepless nights and weight management issues has been known for a while, but the link with food choices is an interesting new development that might explain this lifestyle connection.

The study of interest published in the journal Obesity took 14 normal weight men and divide them into two groups. One group was kept awake for an entire night, whereas the other was allowed to sleep normally. The men were then all fed breakfast, and sent off to grocery store with $50 US in their pockets to buy items off a list of 40 foods- 20 high calorie and 20 low-calorie foods. Foods were also varied in price to control for a budgeting influence. An important consideration when looking at any study is the testing population - as it is not garenteed that the results found in this group would transfer to women or to those in a different cultural setting. What researchers found in this group was that regardless of the type of food or the price, men who did not have any sleep the night before purchased significantly more calories and grams of food than those who were well rested. Researchers have hypothesized in the past that a hormone produced in the stomach called ghrelin that acts to increase hunger signals could be elevates after a sleepless night, leading to a higher intake of calories. This team also measured serum ghrelin levels in the men before breakfast, reporting that the plasma concentrations were in fact higher in those who had no sleep but that this did not seem to affect their food purchasing choices.

Although ghrelin does not seem to be the common link, another study released in August 2013 possibly clarifies these results. This team of researchers looked at the affect that sleep deprivation has on the human brain. They reported that brain activity in regions responsible for evaluation of choices were decreased, whereas activity was upregulated in an area that increase desire for high calorie food. This effect seems to be proportional to the magnitude of sleep deprivation. As a Naturopath, I know how important factors like sleep are to weight management. I often work with patients to improve sleep hygiene by relaxing and evenings and decreasing screen exposure or focusing on stress management to help improve sleep quality. Contact me for more info if you are ready to identify the underlying cause of your weight management issues! - Dr. Sarah Penney, ND, MSc

As written for ACE Nutrients. References 1. Chapman CD, et al. Acute sleep deprivation increases food purchasing in men. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2013 Aug 1 [Epub ahead of print] 2. Greer, S. et al. The impact of sleep deprivation on food desire in the human brain. Nature Communications. 2013; 4(2259).

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