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Being sleepy makes it hard to resist the lure of junk food

Just one night of disrupted sleep makes people view junk food more favorably, new research shows, so you’re facing a double whammy this time of year: You’re sleep-deprived because of everything you need to accomplish (or because you’re attending lots of fun holiday parties) and treats and sweets are everywhere.

In addition, a recent survey from staffing firm Accountemps found that 74 percent of U.S. professionals perform their jobs while tired at least somewhat often. So if you’re sleepy at work, you might be tempted to grab a donut or holiday cookie hoping for a quick energy boost.

“When you have sleep deprivation and are running on low energy, you automatically go for a bag of potato chips or other comfort foods,” Susan Zafarlotfi, clinical director of the Institute for Sleep and Wake Disorders at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, told WebMD.

New research from the University of Cologne, Germany published in the Journal of Neuroscience found that sleep-deprived study participants had greater activity in the area of their brain where food rewards are processed and were willing to pay more for snack food than participants who had a good night’s sleep, The Guardian reported.

Researchers gave 32 men the same healthy dinner then sent half home to sleep wearing a sleep-tracking device and kept the other half awake all night in a lab. The next morning, researchers measured their levels of blood sugar and hormones linked to stress and appetite.

They also were shown pictures of a series of items, including snack foods, and asked how much they would be willing to pay for them within a price range, and shown pictures of food and other items while undergoing an MRI scan to measure brain activity.

Anne Stych, Contributing Writer