Is it hard for you to avoid gorging on sugar-laden sweets and oily samosas? Your lack of proper sleep is to be blamed.
A new study has suggested that rapid eye movement (REM) sleep loss leads to increased consumption of unhealthy foods, specifically sucrose and fat. REM sleep is a unique phase of sleep in mammals that is closely associated with dreaming and characterised by random eye movement and almost complete paralysis of the body.
The study showed that "the medial prefrontal cortex -- brain region that are recruited when thinking about oneself -- may play a direct role in controlling our desire to consume weight promoting foods, high in sucrose content, when people lack sleep," said lead author Kristopher McEown from the University of Tsukuba in Japan.
In the study, the researchers used a new method to produce REM sleep loss in mice along with a chemical-genetic technique to block prefrontal cortex neurons and the behaviours they mediate.
The study showed that blocking these neurons reversed the effect of REM sleep loss on sucrose consumption while having no effect on fat consumption. The prefrontal cortex was found to play a role in judging the palatability of foods through taste, smell and texture.
Moreover, persons who are obese tend to have increased activity in the prefrontal cortex when exposed to high calorie foods, the researchers noted, in the paper published in the journal eLife.