Feeling sleepy? Put down that doughnut!

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

burgers and fries
Think twice before filling that yawning mouth with some junk food.

I’m sure you’ve woken up during a restless slumber for a late night snack. It’s pretty harmless right, just a quick bowl of cereal or a small bite of toast? Nothing too heavy. Well, according to research from UC Berkeley, you may want to stop eating in the middle of the night if you don’t want to get fat!

The researchers studied a group of 23 young adults and scanned their brains after a good night’s sleep. Everything was a-okay. The trouble came when the participants had a sleepless night. When the researchers took a brain scan of the sleepy volunteers they found that there was less activity in the frontal lobe – the part of the brain that make advance decisions – and more activity in the reward system of our brain. That part is responsible for helping us feel pleasure, like the kind we get when we eat a tasty meal.

How did this affect food cravings for the volunteers? While they were getting their brain scanned, they had 80 pictures of food flashed before them. With the frontal lobe not as awake and their reward system thriving, the participants favored greasy, salty, sugar-packed junk food like pizza, burgers, and doughnuts, over nutritious snacks like strawberries, apples, and carrots. The Berkeley researchers say this study is a good explanation for why people who don’t get enough sleep tend to be overweight.

“These results shed light on how the brain becomes impaired by sleep deprivation, leading to the selection of more unhealthy foods and, ultimately, higher rates of obesity,” said Stephanie Greer, the leader of the study.

According to the scientists, getting more sleep is a good way to control your weight and stay healthy. Of course, staying away from junk food and eating nutritious foods is always the best choice!

Burgers and fries image courtesy of Mike Hipp on Flickr.