Nutrition

Can Sleep Quality Affect Your Eating Habits? | This Week’s Top Studies

Love to spout the science to your gym buddies as you throw around some weights together? We’ve got the answer to just that. Every week, we share our favourite new studies that we think will shake up your nutrition and training routine. 

This week, we’re looking at the effect of REM sleep on eating behaviour and whether nutrition labelling on food really makes us eat healthier. Let’s get going… 

 

Does sleep affect your eating?

We all know that sleep’s important, but could it play an important role in our eating habits too? Sleep’s a pretty complicated thing, but scientists think they may just have it sussed. 

Our sleep is split into different phases, one of which is rapid eye movement sleep (REM). Not a lot is known about the purpose of this phase, but what scientists can see is which parts of the brains light up during REM. 

One of the parts that they’ve seen high levels of activity in during REM sleep is the hypothalamus. Specifically, the neurons in this area that control things such as appetite and regulate behaviours and addiction when we’re awake. 

The researchers experimented suppressing these neurons in mice during REM sleep to see if it had an impact on day-to-day behaviour with some interesting results.  

They found that when these neurons were suppressed, the mice ate less food during the day. This suggests that REM sleep could be integral in regulating food intake and appetite. 

Although this study was done in mice, with our modern-day disrupted sleeping patterns, it would be interesting to see if similar results would be observed in humans too. 

Does your sleep quality affect your appetite?  

 

Why we’re making better food choices

When picking up an item of food, we’re pretty used to seeing the nutritional information displayed on the front, but this wasn’t always the case.  

Front-of-pack nutritional labelling was introduced way back in 2006, with red, amber, or green used to show whether a food has healthy levels of different nutrients such as fat or salt.  

The question is, after well over a decade of this system, has it worked? Researchers have looked into the change in buying trends since this labelling was introduced to find out.2 

They discovered that generally, the nutritional composition of our shopping baskets has improved and that reduced quantities of the labelled food, such as ready meals, are now bought. 

Thanks to this new legislation, people in the UK are eating on average are reducing their monthly calories by 588 when it comes to buying labelled store-branded foods, as well as a reduction in saturated fat, salt and sugar. 

While this may not seem like a lot, it suggests that labelling is making us more aware of what we eat — and whether it’s good for us. 

Does the traffic light system ever stop you from buying certain foods? 

 

Take home message

Being aware of what could increase our appetite, or the nutritional value of specific foods will help you to make more educated decisions when it comes to fuelling your body for those tough workouts, or just getting through the working day. 

Enjoy these studies?

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Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.


1. Oesch, L. T., Gazea, M., Gent, T. C., Bandarabadi, M., Herrera, C. G., & Adamantidis, A. R. (2020). REM sleep stabilizes hypothalamic representation of feeding behaviorProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences117(32), 19590-19598. 

2. Fichera, E., & von Hinke, S. (2020). The response to nutritional labels: Evidence from a quasi-experimentJournal of Health Economics, 102326. 



Evangeline Howarth

Evangeline Howarth

Writer and expert

Evangeline is a Veganuary convert and newbie vegan with a degree in English and French from the University of Nottingham. Having recently ditched the meat and dairy, she really enjoys the new flavours and cooking techniques she’s encountered on a plant-based diet. She’s been shocked by the millions of ways you can use tofu, however still hasn’t found a decent cheese substitute! When she’s not in the office or eating, Evangeline usually out running or sailing. As a qualified RYA Dinghy Instructor and a marathon runner, she knows the importance of providing your body with the right nutrients for endurance sports as well as a busy lifestyle. Find out more about Evie's experience here.


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