Why is it that the second you decide to quit junk food and live healthy, you come across something tempting that usually gets difficult to resist buying? Whether it’s a mouth-watering street-snack or a mood-sweetning candy, you just can’t get enough of these. According to new research, a bad night’s sleep could make the temptation even harder and lead to increased food purchasing.

Now you know whom to put blame on.

The study, published in the journal Obesity, analyzed whether sleep deprivation would impair or alter an individual’s shopping habits, based on the hypothesis that sleep deprivation can decrease higher-level thinking and increase hunger.

“We chose total sleep deprivation (TSD) to investigate the influence of sleep loss on food purchasing behavior in humans,” say the study authors. “Our findings are broadly significant for people working in a variety of professions, including shift workers, cab drivers, nurses, doctors, and other jobs requiring work at night.”

The team of researchers recruited 14 men of normal, healthy weight for their research. At the baseline of the study, all participants enrolled were confirmed to have normal sleep-wake rhythms. The subjects were asked to have one full night of normal sleep and one night of total sleep deprivation (TSD). On the morning after both occasions, the men were given a fixed budget of $50 to buy food from a supermarket.

The subjects were instructed to purchase as much as
possible from a list of 40 food items. This consisted of
20 high-calorie foods and 20 low-calorie foods. Before the task, all men were given a standardized breakfast to limit the effect of hunger on their food purchases. Findings showed that when the men were sleep deprived, they purchased 9% more calories and 18% more food, compared with their purchases after a good night’s sleep.

The researchers say that follow-up studies are needed
to address whether these findings are more prominent
within obese populations and in those with chronic sleep disorders.

“Additionally,” say the study authors, “studies should
investigate whether or not this impact on purchasing
behavior extends to other items beyond food, including high-price items, where purchasers could fall victim to disrupted decision making.”

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