Mary's Tearoom, Behavioural Foodie, sleep

Sleep And Food Choices: A Remarkable Relationship

Does sleep actually matter?

Carrying on with last weeks theme of self control and food choices, I thought it might be interesting this week to explore sleep deprivation. Moreover, how that has an affect on our food choices.

We have all been told having a good night’s sleep is a crucial part of leading a healthy lifestyle. Many of us aim for a good night’s sleep of 8 hours. However you can fall short of this due to different commitments you have. I have heard many people tell me they do not require that many hours of sleep. Although this may feel the case, it is not always true. It is important for us to understand how sleep deprivation can cause a lack of optimum decision making in other areas.

Can it affect your decision making?

As many of you will be aware, a range of factors can affect the food choices you make. Including availability, stress, ease of consumption etc.

A range of studies discuss this issue of lack of sleep and if it is directly correlated to obesity. As a population on average, we suffer from a chronic lack of sleep and so this has long term effects on our decision making. Harrison and colleagues found that in the short term, deprivation impairs decision making. This is seen in a range of problem solving tasks. Killgore found that decision making made under uncertainty is vulnerable to sleep loss. As well as this, it can worsen with age. Harrison and Horne found that participants playing decision making games in a state of deprived sleep  showed impairment in innovative thinking and flexible decision making.

It is clear that a lack of sleep can cause signs of impairment in our decision making. So how does this relate to food.

What about your food choices?

Brondel and colleagues analysed partial sleep deprivation in males. They show that in comparison with individuals who slept 8 hours, individuals consume 22% more caloriesMarkwald built on this by discussing repeated nights of insufficient sleep and its impact on food intake. The study highlighted that energy expenditure was up 5%. Despite this, energy intake is excessive of what is needed to maintain energy balance. Especially at night after dinner. This is argued as being psychological adaptation. Undoubtedly to provide energy needed to sustain the additional hours of being awake. However when the food is easily accessible this changes. Instead the intake surpasses what is required to maintain energy balance. 

How does lack of sleep affect your brain?

Benedict and colleagues explain this happens due to the the sleep enhancing your brain’s pleasure stimulus. As a result this drives us to consume more food. Wells and Cruess report that food choices were altered following deprivation. Consequently with individuals choosing more unhealthy food. It is clear that individuals are severely affected by their present bias, leading them to be less able to exercise their self control.

Sleep can help you control your weight

Therefore, it is clear that less sleep can heavily influence your decision making. Individuals are more likely to pick unhealthy, high energy food choices to gain more energy. Over time this can be detrimental to weight and future health. My take away point would be to try and gain as much sleep as you can. I know myself this can be hard for different reasons, but it will significantly benefit your health in the long-term and your decision making around food.

sleep, mac and cheese

Check out my other blog posts:

System 1: Your Ego Depletion And Limited Self Control

Let’s play a game and see how your system 1 and 2 are affected:

A salad and doughnut cost £1.10. 

The salad costs one pound more than the doughnut.

How much does the doughnut cost?

Well that’s easy! It’s 10p.


Read More

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