Lack of Sleep Causes Brain to Eat More

lack of sleep causes weight gain

Lack of sleep worsens diet choices

Multiple studies now support the fact that a lack of sleep changes brain activity and increases the urge to eat more. Sleep deficiency also produces the inclination to eat more high calorie foods.

Brain function studied

Research was conducted using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) in order to analyze the relationship between brain function and eating habits among 23 human test subjects.

The subjects were tested after having a good night’s sleep, and then tested after having a bad night’s sleep. The good night’s sleep consisted of enough sleep to feel fully rested and awake during the day, and the poor night’s sleep resulted in daytime sleepiness.

After the poor night’s sleep the subjects were found to have less activity in the frontal cortex of the brain, while having increased activity in the amygdala part of the brain.

Natural Sleep Solutions by Case Adams

Discover more than 200 sleep remedies while supporting this ad-free site.

Increased activity in the frontal cortex has been linked in other research with healthier eating habits, while more activity in the amygdala has been linked with eating more, weight gain and binge eating – especially high-calorie foods.

The researchers also found that those who had the most sleep deprivation had the greatest amygdala activity – indicating the urge to eat high-calorie foods becomes greater as our sleep becomes worse.

The researchers concluded that,

“These findings provide an explanatory brain mechanism by which insufficient sleep may lead to the development/maintenance of obesity through diminished activity in higher-order cortical evaluation regions, combined with excess subcortical limbic responsivity, resulting in the selection of foods most capable of triggering weight-gain.”

The findings of this study confirm a study last year by researchers from the Department of Neuroscience at Sweden’s Uppsala University. Here the researchers tested 12 healthy men who were studied with brain scans along with food cravings and appetite, and blood sugar testing, after a poor night’s sleep (sleep deprivation) and after a good night’s sleep.

More:  Grapes Protect Against Skin Cancer

In this study the researchers – using functional magnetic resonance imaging – found that sleep deprivation caused brain activity to increase in the right anterior cingulate cortex as the subjects watched images of foods.

The emotional part of the anterior cingulate cortex links to the amygdala – providing the association between the results of these two studies.

To provide confirmation of the link between increased activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, the researchers found that appetite scores among those with increased anterior cingulate cortex activity were higher than among those with less brain activity in that region.

Blood sugar affected

These brain-activity changes among the sleep-deprived subjects also resulted despite no difference in the subjects’ relative blood glucose levels, between the poor night’s sleep and the good night’s sleep testing. This indicates that the relationship between sleep and eating is not related to a change in blood sugar levels during sleep – but specifically on brain activity.

The researchers concluded:

“These results provide evidence that acute sleep loss enhances hedonic stimulus processing in the brain underlying the drive to consume food, independent of plasma glucose levels. These findings highlight a potentially important mechanism contributing to the growing levels of obesity in Western society.”

These studies confirm other research tying obesity and overeating to sleep deprivation.

So it looks like a start to any successful weight loss diet is a good night’s sleep.


Greer SM, Goldstein AN, Walker MP. The impact of sleep deprivation on food desire in the human brain. Nat Commun. 2013 Aug 6;4:2259.

More:  Probiotics Help Prevent and Ease the Common Cold in School Children

Benedict C, Brooks SJ, O’Daly OG, Almèn MS, Morell A, Åberg K, Gingnell M, Schultes B, Hallschmid M, Broman JE, Larsson EM, Schiöth HB. Acute sleep deprivation enhances the brain’s response to hedonic food stimuli: an fMRI study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Mar;97(3):E443-7.

Adams C. Natural Sleep Solutions for Insomnia: The Science of Sleep, Dreaming, and Nature’s Sleep Remedies. Logical Books, 2011.

Case Adams is a California Naturopath with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies. “My journey into writing about alternative medicine began about 9:30 one evening after I finished with a patient at the clinic I practiced at over a decade ago. I had just spent the last two hours explaining how diet, sleep and other lifestyle choices create health problems and how changes in these, along with certain herbal medicines and other natural strategies can radically yet safely turn our health around. As I drove home that night, I realized this knowledge should be available to more people. So I began writing about health with a mission to reach those who desperately need this information. The strategies in my books and articles are backed by scientific evidence along with wisdom handed down through traditional medicines for thousands of years.” Case connects with nature by surfing, hiking, running, biking and according to Dad, being a total beach bum.

You may also like...