A lack of sleep is causing me junk food cravings?

04 May A lack of sleep is causing me junk food cravings?

A group of researchers recently investigated if our taste and food cravings are influenced by our sleep. They published an article called Sleep, food cravings and taste[1].

They state that taste is influenced by factors such as environment, psychology, and from our own physiological state. This study aimed to determine whether sleep influences our sense of taste or our cravings for food.

Various studies have investigated links between sleep and either cravings for, or intake of, foods. The researchers cited various articles, which have shown the following facts:

  1. Those with sleep durations less than 6 h, or greater than 8 h have greater diabetes risk (Zizi

et al., 2012) possibly due to sleep loss; interfering with metabolic or endocrine functions.

  1. Sleep is a regulator of neuroendocrine function and glucose metabolism, with lack of sleep leading to negative health consequences such as altered insulin sensitivity, and an imbalance in leptin and ghrelin levels (Spiegel, Tasali, Penev, & Van Cauter, 2004; Beccuti and Pannian, 2011).
  2. Increased sleep led to a decrease in both overall appetite and the desire for sweet or salty foods in a study of young adults. (Tasali, Chapotot, Wroblewski, & Schoeller, 2014).
  3. Adolescents sleeping less than 8h a day showed significantly increased consumption of calories from fat and carbohydrates (Weiss et al., 2010). Spiegel et al. (2004).
  4. When sleep deprived, participants showed a greater desire for high-calorie foods, with no change in wanting of low-calorie items highlighting vulnerability for unhealthy eating behaviour with sleep loss. (Greer, Goldstein, &Walker, 2013).

Their results showed that some taste flavours such as Umami and sour were intensified in those rating sleepiness higher this group also reported higher implicit wanting for high fat sweet foods (p= 0.011, Wald chi-sq =14.937). Craving for sweet or savoury also associated with a number of measures of taste response to real foods.

They concluded that a lack of sleep may induce cravings for unhealthy foods, and those foods high in umami or sour taste may be experienced differently due to alterations in taste function.



[1] Wen Lv; Graham Finlayson; Robin Dando. Sleep, food cravings and taste. Appetite 125 (2018) p. 210-216. PMID: 29447996 DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2018.02.013. Available online: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29447996