Lack of Sleep May Increase Food Cravings

January 2, 2016 Updated: January 2, 2016

Did you know that less sleep can lead to more food cravings? That’s right. Studies show that just one sleepless night can affect the brain’s response to food the next day, increasing your desire to eat. Therefore, a person who doesn’t sleep well one night may crave more food than normal the next day.

One study looked at the eating habits of around 40 healthy people between the ages of 21 and 50 who followed regular sleep schedule of six to eight hours of sleep a night. Those who were sleep-deprived during the study ate almost 1,000 more calories than they usually would the next day. They also ordered more fatty foods and more carbs.

People who have trouble sleeping or even work late hours should be especially cautious.

All participants received MRI scans of their brain that showed a correlation between the new cravings and the brain’s salience network, which is the network used in decision-making and behavioral responses. Those who lost sleep experienced a break in the pathways of this network.

In addition, the connection between cravings and sleep may be why research continues to make associations between obesity, overeating, and lack of sleep.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that the average adult get seven to nine hours of sleep a night. This is important for optimal functioning throughout the day and just to feel good in general.

People who have trouble sleeping or even work late hours should be especially cautious. By not getting enough sleep, you may also be at increased risk of heart disease, stroke, weight gain, cancer, diabetes, loss of concentration and memory, and premature aging.

These tips can help you get a good night’s sleep:

  • Stick to a sleep schedule.
  • Control what you eat and drink before bed.
  • Have a relaxing bedtime routine.
  • Keep your room dark.
  • Check your room temperature.
  • Keep your stress level low.
  • Skip or limit napping to 20 minutes or less, otherwise your brain falls into a deep sleep, which may hinder sleeping through the night.

Dr. David B. Samadi (Courtesy of Dr. Samadi)
Dr. David B. Samadi (Courtesy of Dr. Samadi)

Dr. David Samadi is the chairman of the urology department and chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel’s Medical A-Team. Learn more at and visit Dr. Samadi’s blog: Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.