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Why you crave junk food when you don't get enough sleep

 

Ever wake up from a nap and *need* an ice cream sandwich? Turns out, there's science behind that. Back in 2013, a study conducted by UC Berkeley found that sleepless nights make a person more susceptible to desire high-calorie foods. Judgment is impaired when you're running on less sleep, which explains why people who are sleep deprived are more likely to become overweight or obese. 

Tired people have a keener sense of smell when it comes to food-related scents. Olfaction, the technical term for sense of smell, affects the piriform cortex and the orbitofrontal cortex in the brain. Science News explains a study done on adults running on four hours of sleep. MRI scans showed the brain activity of the participants when presented with food related and nonfood related scents. A few weeks later, the same participants underwent the same studythis time with a full eight hours of sleep.

When looking at the MRI scans, scientists noticed greater brain activity in response to food scents when the participants were sleep deprived. Brain activity remained the same in response to nonfood odors, regardless of how many hours of sleep the participants got. So, how does the way we smell affect how we eat? Odor is actually one of the main ways humans experice food. A heightened sense of smell will make a juicy burger seem appealing, even if you usually crave healthy meals.

According to Columbia University's Marie-Pierre St-Onge,“Calories are energy, and your brain subconsciously knows they will wake you up.” So, how do you combat the fatigue-induced munchies? Snack on fruits or veggies before diving into a bag of chips. Healthy foods will give you the energy boost you need to have better judgment, and it gives you a couple minutes to wake up.

Photo credit: Instagram.

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by Julia Bonney | 4/29/2018
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