As any college student or shift worker will tell you, staying up all night or even just skimping on sleep can lead to cravings of satisfying, calorie-packed foods.
An emerging body of research suggests that sleep-related hunger and food cravings, which may contribute to weight gain, are fueled in part by certain gut hormones involved in appetite. But our brain, and not just our belly, may play a role, as well.
According to two small studies presented at a meeting of sleep researchers in Boston, sleep deprivation appears to increase activity in areas of the brain that seek out pleasure - including that provided by junk food. To make matters worse, sleepiness also may dampen activity in other brain regions that usually serve as a brake on this type of craving.
"The pleasure-seeking parts of the brain were stimulated after an individual was sleep-deprived," says lead researcher Marie-Pierre St-Onge, Ph.D., a research associate at the university's New York Obesity Research Center. "People went for foods like pepperoni pizza, cheeseburgers and cake."
Researchers suspect that tired people gravitate to high-calorie foods because their bodies and brains are seeking an extra energy boost to help them get through the day.
Read more from CNN.