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The No. 1 Lazy-Proof Strategy to Lose Weight

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It can sometimes be difficult to resist buying tasty cakes and snacks while doing your grocery shopping.

But there is something that could be multiplying the temptation... times 100! Ready to hear it?

Sleeplessness makes you buy more food! And yes, it's scientifically linked.

According to recent research, lack of sleep is linked with increased food purchasing. It just makes the temptation even harder. A study, published in the journal Obesity, analyzed whether sleep deprivation would impair or alter an individual's shopping habits, based on the hypothesis that sleep deprivation can decrease higher-level thinking and increase hunger.

The participants in the study were asked to have one full night of normal sleep and one night of total sleep deprivation (TSD). On the morning after both occasions, they were given a fixed budget of $50 to buy food from a supermarket. The subjects were instructed to purchase as much as possible from a list of 40 food items. This consisted of 20 high-calorie foods and 20 low-calorie foods. Before the task, all subjects were given a standardized breakfast to limit the effect of hunger on their food purchases.

Findings showed that when the participants were sleep deprived, they purchased 9 percent more calories and 18 percent more food, compared with their purchases after a good night's sleep. Their blood levels were also measured, both after one good night's sleep and one night of sleep deprivation.

Sleep deprivation and hormonal imbalances

The results revealed that after sleep deprivation, concentrations of the hormone, ghrelin -- a hormone that increases hunger -- were significantly higher.

Colin Chapman, first author of the study from Uppsala University in Sweden, says:

We hypothesized that sleep deprivation's impact on hunger and decision making would make for the "perfect storm" with regard to shopping and food purchasing, leaving individuals hungrier and less capable of employing self-control and higher-level decision-making processes to avoid making impulsive, calorie-driven purchases.

This shows us that hormonal imbalances and impaired decision-making around food take over when our sleep patterns are all over the place.

Your brain on food choices

A 2013 study, from the University of California, suggested that not sleeping enough hours (or a bad night's sleep) can lead to unhealthy food choices by impairing activity in the frontal lobe of the brain -- an area vital for making good food choices.

The researchers concluded:

These findings provide an explanatory brain mechanism by which insufficient sleep may lead to the development/maintenance of obesity through diminished activity in higher-order cortical evaluation regions, combined with excess subcortical limbic responsivity, resulting in the selection of foods most capable of triggering weight-gain.

What to do next?

In the next seven days, try to maintain a normal sleep schedule. I know it's hard. Specially if you work long hours. When I was in banking, I'd be severely sleep-deprived for five days, and then "binge-sleep" over the weekend weekend. No wonder why I had periods where I gained weight "inexplicably." Listen, let's be realistic though. Seven hours should cover it.

Take action by inaction... and rest. Your scales (and your wallet!) will thank you for it.

You can learn more about your brain on weight loss by taking this FREE QUIZ: Are you a Doer, a Thinker, a Planner or a Feeler? (It takes about two minutes to complete).

Alejandra Ruani is the creator of Health Divas, a weekly blog that breaks down the psychology of weight control into simple, actionable steps, showing you exactly what works so you can start doing it yourself.