Making healthier food choices could be associated with the quality of your slumber, suggests a new study which could help shed light on the link between sleep loss and obesity and why ice cream seems even more tantalizing when we're tired.
Presenting at a major sleep conference in Boston this week, researchers from the University of California Berkeley showed that sleep deprivation could impair a person's ability to make wise food choices after taking MRI scans of their participants.
For their study, scientists observed the brain activity of 23 participants over two nights: after a normal night's sleep and a second night of sleep deprivation.
For both sessions, participants rated how much they wanted various food items while inside the scanner.
Turns out sleep deprivation significantly impaired brain activity in the frontal lobe, a region that controls behavior and is activated when making complex choices, including food selection.
Meanwhile, a similar study conducted by researchers from Columbia University also suggests that the sleep deprived are less likely to be capable of resisting temptation after MRI scans showed that sleep restriction activated a part of the brain that seeks rewards.
When presented with images of junk food following five nights in which slumber was restricted to four hours, MRIs showed increased activity in the brain's pleasure center, which could explain why willpower against a slice of pizza can weaken after a long week.