Refusing Junk Food is More of a Challenge When You’re Tired

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Beep beep beep. Your pesky resounding alarm summons you to wake up.

You lazily extend your arm to hit the snooze button, until you notice out of the corner of your eye what time it is. You bolt out of bed in panic, throw on whatever is clean, do a quick swipe of your toothbrush through your mouth, slip on shoes, and fly out the door.

As you dash to your destination, you reprimand yourself for the lack of sleep you got the night before. The rest of the day is a struggle to get through–your head is pounding, you lack the ability to focus on tasks, and let’s be honest your reflection in the mirror has seen better days.

Somehow, at a slow functioning pace, you make it through the day and make a mental note to avoid putting your body through this displeasure again.

This promise, if followed through on would make major improvements in your life.

As you have heard, sleep deprivation impacts you more than just having an “off” day.

John Arlette, a dermatologist at Total Skin Care explains that the first place a lack of sleep shows is on your face. Some indicators of sleep deprivation include dry sallow skin, wrinkles and droopy eyelids.

“People who get less than seven hours of sleep have skin discoloration, and their skin doesn’t have that nice reflective quality,” comments Arlette.

Moreover, skimping on sleeping contributes to your skin aging quicker, makes you more susceptible to illnesses, and diminishes your ability to think sharply.

More recently, a study conducted by researchers at UC Berkeley found a further explanation for the already proven correlation between obesity and a lack of proper rest.

While researchers have previously made the connection that obesity and a lack of sleep causes the hunger hormone ghrelin, to make you feel hungrier than you are– researchers at UC Berkeley sought to investigate this information one step further.

Their theory was to test whether or not sleep deprivation impacts judgment when it comes to healthy choices. This theory is rooted within the concept that when people are grappling with the consequences of drowsiness, they are more inclined to surrender to the enticement of indulging in a greasy slice of pizza rather than preparing a healthy meal at home.

By utilizing MRI technology, researchers were able to monitor the brain responses of 23 participants after a night of proper rest versus an almost sleepless night. During both mentioned scenarios, researchers showed 80 images of food that were categorized by high vs. low-calorie/healthy vs. unhealthy. Participants were then asked to rate their desire for these items.

The food images presented in the study varied from fruits and vegetables, to burgers, pizza and doughnuts. The latter are examples of the more popular choices following a sleepless night.

Overall, the results demonstrated that fatigue plays a role in the selection of unhealthy food– those who were exhausted showed low activity levels in the frontal lobe, which controls emotions and decision making.

“What we have discovered is that high-level brain regions required for complex judgments and decisions become blunted by a lack of sleep, while more primal brain structures that control motivation and desire are amplified,” said Matthew Walker, a UC Berkeley professor of psychology and neuroscience and senior author of the study published in the journal Nature Communications.

Moreover, he added, “high-calorie foods also became significantly more desirable when participants were sleep-deprived. This combination of altered brain activity and decision-making may help explain why people who sleep less also tend to be overweight or obese.”

The study reaffirms the notion that to prevent weight gain, one should make a conscientious effort to get proper rest. While this sounds simple, it does take time to make it a ritual.

Before going to bed, health experts recommend turning off all technology products an hour before going to bed. This will help ease your mind into relaxation mode. Moreover, avoiding naps throughout the day and going to bed on a schedule contributes to preventing sleepless nights from occurring.

While it does take time to get into the habit of developing solid sleep routine, once accomplished you are one step closer to developing a healthier quality of life and preventing weight gain.