Sleep Deprivation Makes the Smell of Food Seem More Enticing

Fagjun | Published 2017-04-02 09:48

There's a reason why you're snacky when you've been staying up too late.

When we're suffering from sleep deprivation, food smells better.

People who sleep less tend to gain more weight, and we may now know why. To a brain operating on little sleep, smells tend to be more enticing. So when you're staying up late to work, study, play, or binge watch your favorite show, you'll probably be eating more.

How little sleep qualifies as sleep deprivation? When you're sleep-deprived, it means that you haven't had enough sleep. The amount of sleep we need depends mostly on how old we are. Babies need to sleep for up to 15 hours a day, while toddlers need up to 14 hours of sleep a day. School-age children need up to 11 hours, while teenagers need up to 9.5 hours on average. Adults, meanwhile, need seven to nine hours of sleep a day.

A lot of things can cause sleep deprivation. We may be experiencing too much stress, or we may be trading snooze time for hours of work or entertainment. We may also have medical conditions that prevent us from falling asleep. Whatever the case, lack of sleep is never a good thing health-wise. We may get more work done, or we may finish that show's new season in one sitting, but it's our health that takes a hit.

Sleep Deprivation and Midnight Snacking

When adults operate on only about four hours of sleep, that's when we start to be more sensitive to smells. When researchers ran tests on adults who lacked sleep, the participants were more sensitive to odors like the smell of potato chips. A few weeks after this, the researchers ran the same experiment. This time, however, the participants got a full eight hours of sleep.

During the experiments, the researchers monitored the participants' brain activity through MRI scans. When the participants lacked sleep, two areas in the brain in charge of our sense of smell were more active. This indicated that the participants were more responsive to food smells when they lacked sleep. When they underwent the same experiment after getting eight hours of sleep, these brain areas were not as active.

As of now, this study is preliminary. However, it shows that there is a link between sleep deprivation, a more active sense of smell, and weight gain. This, of course, is bad news. Lack of sleep is harmful to our health as it is. Compound that with excessive consumption of calories, and we may be biting off more than we can chew.

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