Sleep and emotional eating: some food for thought

If you are working to take control of overeating and emotional eating, or if you are trying to lose weight, making sure that you are getting enough sleep is critical.

We know that a lack of sleep plays havoc with your appetite-regulating hormones and will cause you to be extra hungry and crave carbohydrates and high fat foods. There is also research suggesting that a lack of sleep can predispose us to emotional eating.

A study, conducted by the University of California Berkley’s Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory, and published in the journal Current Biology examined the effect of sleep deprivation on the emotional processing centers of the brain. The brain imaging study suggests that a good night’s sleep helps regulate your mood and cope with the next day’s emotional challenges. When the brain is deprived of sleep, it is less able to put emotional experiences into context and produce controlled, reasoned responses. In fact, in the study, the emotional centers of the brain were over 60 percent more reactive under conditions of sleep deprivation than in subjects who had obtained a normal night of sleep.

Put another way, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, the study suggests that you will be physiologically predisposed to react emotionally rather than choose a deliberate response to emotional situations. You are less likely to stop, think, and choose your response. So, if your goal is to curb stress eating, stop the nervous eating, or no longer reach for chocolate when you are feeling down, a lack of sleep is going to make it a lot harder to be successful.

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