Rapid eye movement sleep loss could be promoting consumption of sugary and fatty foods in people, reports a recent study.

While it is widely reported that sleep loss has a key role to play in the activity of brain that influences the consumption of unhealthy foods, no direct link between the two were established so far.

REM Sleep Loss Experiment On Mice

Meanwhile, to study about the craving for fatty and sugary foods induced by sleep deprivation, the researchers from University of Tsukuba conducted a novel experiment on mice. For the purpose of the study, the researchers induced REM sleep loss in mice using a combination of chemical and genetic techniques.

The investigators blocked the functions of prefrontal cortex neurons with the help of the chemical-genetic technique. It was observed that sugar consumption linked to REM sleep loss was reversed after blocking the neural functions of prefrontal cortex. However, no effect on fatty foods consumption was observed.

Role Of Prefrontal Cortex In Food Craving

The prefrontal cortex of the brain is known to control an individual's ability to smell, taste and understand the texture of the food. The prefrontal cortex also exhibits an increased activity in obese people when they are exposed to high-calorie foods.

"Our results suggest that the medial prefrontal cortex may play a direct role in controlling our desire to consume weight promoting foods, high in sucrose content, when we are lacking sleep," said Kristopher McEown, the study's lead author.

Rapid Eye Movement Sleep And Related Disorders

Generally, there are two distinct states in normal sleep, which are rapid eye movement sleep and non-rapid eye movement. A person may experience symptoms such as rapid eye movements, increase in blood pressure, irregular breathing and loss of muscle tone referred to as paralysis while having a REM sleep.

During REM sleep, the activity of the brain is intense, and the electrical activity recorded while in REM sleep resembles one recorded when the person is awake. This kind of sleep is experienced when a person is dreaming, and it occupies 20 to 25 percent of one's sleep period.

REM sleep behavior disorder caused as a result of REM sleep may make a person "act out" his dream, which could be intense, vivid or violent. The activities such as jumping, walking, talking, punching, grabbing, kicking and yelling performed while dreaming are caused as a result of RBD.

RBD And Neurodegenerative Disorders

People with neurodegenerative disorders such as multisystem atrophy, Shy-Drager syndrome, Parkinson's disease and Lewy body dementia may experience RBD. It is also noted that RBD may precede the development of such diseases several years.

The study is published in the journal eLIFE.

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