A wealth of cross-sectional studies found a link between sleep deprivation and food-related outcomes like energy intake and BMI. Recent experimental studies suggest that this link is causal. However, the mechanisms through which sleep deprivation influences intake remain unclear. Here, we tested two prevailing hypotheses: that sleep deprivation leads to 1) increased food reward sensitivity and 2) decreased food-related self-control. In a within-subject study (n = 60 normal-weight females), we compared outcome measures under normal sleep and partial sleep deprivation conditions. Our outcome measures were 1) proxies for food reward sensitivity – liking of high and low energy foods, 2) binary food choices ranging in level of self-control conflict, and 3) intake of high and low energy foods. Eye-movements during food choice were measured with an eye-tracker to gain insights in implicit food choice processes. Food reward sensitivity outcomes showed a lower liking of low energy foods after partial sleep deprivation. More high energy foods were chosen after partial sleep deprivation independent of the level of self-control conflict. Intake of high energy foods was higher in the partial sleep deprivation condition. Lastly, the number of gaze switches between high and low energy foods, an implicit measure of conflict in choice, was lower in the high-conflict trials after sleep deprivation than after a normal night sleep. To conclude, the increased intake of high energy foods after sleep deprivation may be driven by a decreased liking of low energy foods, rather than an increased liking of high energy foods. Further, sleep deprivation may affect self-control conflict detection as indicated by a lower number of gaze switches between food options.
- Food choice