Chronic sleep restriction differentially affects implicit biases toward food among men and women: preliminary evidence

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Chronic sleep restriction and obesity are two major public health concerns. This study investigated how chronic sleep restriction changes implicit attitudes towards low- and high-calorie foods. In a randomized, counterbalanced cross-over design, 17 participants (eight females, nine males) underwent two laboratory testing sessions where they were either sleep-restricted for 3 weeks (i.e. underwent three weekly cycles of 5 nights of 4 h of sleep followed by 2 nights of 8 h of sleep opportunity) or received 3 weeks of control sleep (i.e. 8 h of sleep opportunity per night for 3 weeks). There was evidence for a significant sleep condition x sex interaction (F(1, 20) = 4.60, P = 0.04). After chronic sleep restriction, men showed a trend towards a significant decrease in their implicit attitudes favouring low-calorie foods (P = 0.08), whereas women did not show a significant change (P = 0.16). Men may be at increased risk of weight gain when sleep-deprived due to a reduced bias towards low-calorie foods.

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