A good night's sleep contributes to healthy eating

Ellen Warren / Chicago Tribune /

Published May 3, 2012 at 05:00AM

Here’s a new spin on the saying, “If you snooze, you lose.”

What if the “lose” part applied to your weight? No, it’s not as simple as going to sleep and waking up slimmer. Alas.

But a recent Harvard study does suggest that people who get a good night’s rest find it easier to resist overeating — especially when it comes to gorging on high-calorie foods like ice cream, cheeseburgers or French fries.

“Daytime sleepiness was positively related to greater hunger and elevated preference for high-calorie foods,” concluded the study, led by researcher William Killgore, an assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School.

MRIs of study volunteers showed why. Sleepier people had less activity in the self-control part of the brain — the prefrontal cortex. That’s the area “that puts the brakes on and slows you down from doing things you shouldn’t do” — like eating too much fattening, unhealthy food, says Killgore.

“If you’re sleepy, you’re more likely to reach out and take a few extra bites of food or go for that extra dessert or say yes to something you wouldn’t have,” says Killgore.

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