This may be the reason you’re eating too much junk food


Craving junk during the afternoon slump? A new study suggests lack of sleep may be the reason why. 

Read more: New dietary guidelines limit sugar, salt & cholesterol

Sleep deficiency connected to eating junk food and weight gain

The University of Chicago recently did a study and found that inadequate sleep leads to an increase in hunger and unhealthy food choices — foods such as vending machine snacks packed with too much sodium, sugar and fat. 

‘There’s been some evidence from both laboratory and epidemiologic studies that consistently associate insufficient sleep with increased risk of obesity,’ said Erin Hanlon, Ph.D., lead author of the study and a research associate in endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at the University of Chicago. 

‘Most recently, studies have shown short sleep duration associated with actual consumption of snacks and high-energy, high-fat foods,” she said.

Read more: 13 best snack foods for weight loss

Young, healthy study participants who were deprived of sleep were unable to resist eating junk food, even after consuming a meal that supplies 90% of their daily calorie needs just two hours before. The cravings for unhealthy foods were most evident in the late afternoon and early evening — times of day that have been associated with weight gain. 

Dr. Hanlon commented that in these cases, ‘I’m not eating it for the energy needs. I’m eating it because that cookie tastes good.’

Read more: Best way to control your weight? Hint: It’s not just diet or exercise!

How to get enough sleep 

Of course, knowing that there is indeed a strong connection to lack of sleep and eating junk (and subsequent weight gain), now the question is, how do we get enough sleep?


Though doctors say an optimal amount varies person by person, the National Sleep Foundation says 7-9 hours is a good range for most people.

But, sometimes with the demands of life, it is difficult for us to get an adequate amount of sleep.

Below are healthy sleep tips from the National Sleep Foundation:

  • Exercise every day.
  • Commit to a sleep schedule, even on weekends.
  • Start a relaxing bedtime ritual to unwind.
  • Take a look at your bedroom to ensure ideal temperature, sound and light.
  • Beware of hidden sleep thieves like alcohol and caffeine.
  • Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows.
  • Disconnect from electronics a little while before bed.

‘People need to think of adequate sleep as an important aspect of maintaining good health,’ concluded Dr. Hanlon.

Read more: 8 top-rated apps that can help you get a better night’s sleep

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