Sleep-deprivation is a stressor and can trigger the stress response. High levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, are linked with cravings for fatty snacks. Columbia University researchers found that those with insufficient sleep tended to eat an extra 300 calories a day. Both genders ate more protein-rich foods but only females ate more fat—an average of 31 more grams of fat after sleeping only four hours.
According to University of Chicago researchers, the marked decrease in average sleep duration over the last 50 years coincides with the increase in prevalence of obesity worldwide—a pandemic.
The Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study found that too little sleep altered levels of appetite-regulating hormones. When tired from lack of sleep, doing energy-intensive tasks, or dealing with high-maintenance people, many may further stress their brain by snacking on high fat, high sugar, fast food items, or beverages with high levels of sugar and caffeine or alcohol.