According to a study conducted by researchers from UC Berkeley, a sleepless night may make you likely to eat junk food rather than healthier choices like vegetables and whole grains. This study offers additional insights into the link between obesity and poor sleep.
Researchers scanned the brains of 23 young adults using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The participants were scanned both after a normal night’s sleep and after a sleepless night. When comparing the results of the scans, researchers found that, following sleep deprivation, the brain’s frontal lobe activity was impaired.
Furthermore, there was increased activity in the deeper brain centers that are known to respond to rewards. They also found that participants were much more likely to favor unhealthy foods when sleep deprived.
According to UC Berkeley professor of psychology and neuroscience Matthew Walker, this shows that, while the more primal brain structures controlling motivation and desire are amplified following sleep deprivation, the higher level brain regions required for more complex decision-making were impaired. This is how junk food cravings become insatiable — the combination is increased primal desire with impairment in higher brain function.
When combined with the fact that unhealthy, high-calorie foods become significantly more desirable to a person who has been sleep-deprived, this explains why people who sleep less are more likely to become overweight or obese.
While previous studies have shown the link between sleep and obesity, this study is one of the first to illustrate a cause for that link. Participants’ brain activities were measured as they were shown images of 80 food items ranging from low- to high-calorie count, as well as healthy and unhealthy choices.
These included fruits and vegetables as well as junk foods such as pizza, doughnuts and burgers. Participants were more likely to desire items from the second group following a sleepless night.
If you’re attempting to lose weight, this may be good news. Ensuring that you get the proper amount of sleep each night can help reduce your cravings and make it easier for you to make healthier choices during the day.
Searching for “sleep hygiene tips” is a good way to get standard sleep hygiene methods that are commonly recommended. The effectiveness of sleep hygiene itself has been the subject of much debate. Many report good results, while others suggest that, regardless of the sleep environment or preparatory sleep practices, the hygiene is not 100% effective because it does not serve to calm a busy mind.
Other healthy sleep practices involve herbal formulas and melatonin supplementation. Mostly, people experiment with these and discover on their own whether or not they work. However, it is wise to consult your health practitioner for more precise suggestions and testing.
And there are numerous other solutions online, such as binaural beats and various “sleep sound” apps. The goals of these devices seems to be to calm the mind down through distraction so that you can relax and go to sleep.
The iNLP Center’s Sleep Switch program is another option that roughly 500 known people have used. The goal of Sleep Switch is to turn off the part of your brain that causes self-referential thoughts (autopilot thinking), associated with the brain’s Default Mode Network (DMN), that impede the natural sleep cycle.
If your restless mind and body do not relax when you get into bed, your DMN may be overactive. MRI scans prove that a certain kind of awareness activity switches off the DMN (highlighted in the March 2010 issue of Scientific American).
The iNLP Center does not have clinical data on the effectiveness of Sleep Switch, other than anecdotal evidence. Dozens of people have reported getting a good night’s sleep on the first night of use, with consistent results thereafter. The iNLP Center offers a money-back guarantee on the program, which has been used 2.3% of the time.
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Mike Bundrant is co-founder of the iNLP Center and host of Mental Health Exposed, a Natural News Radio program.
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