Epidemiological studies have shown that sleep debt increases the risk of obesity. Experimental total sleep deprivation (TSD) has been reported to activate the reward system in response to food stimuli, but food-related responses in everyday sleep habits, which could lead to obesity, have not been addressed. Here, we report that habitual sleep time at home among volunteers without any sleep concerns was shorter than their optimal sleep time estimated by the 9-day extended sleep intervention, which indicates that participants had already been in sleep debt in their usual sleep habits. The amygdala and anterior insula, which are responsible for both affective responses and reward prediction, were found to exhibit significantly lowered activity in the optimal sleep condition. Additionally, a subsequent one-night period of TSD reactivated the right anterior insula in response to food images; however, the activity level of amygdala remained lowered. These findings indicate that (1) our brain is at risk of hyperactivation to food triggers in everyday life, which could be a risk factor for obesity and lifestyle diseases, and (2) optimal sleep appears to reduce this hypersensitivity to food stimuli.
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