Poor sleep has been linked to unhealthy eating habits and weight gain. Now a team of American researchers believes it knows why people may gravitate toward calorie-dense junk food when sleep deprived: Blame it on the nose.

In a study published in eLife, brain images showed that enticing food smells were more seductive when par­ticipants were sleep-deprived than after they’d had a normal night’s rest. Led by their noses, they increased consumption of high-calorie foods like cookies, doughnuts and potato chips. The study authors also found that tired individuals experienced a breakdown in communication between different brain regions in response to food aromas. This also contributed to poor food choices.

These are good reasons to preach healthy sleep hygiene as part of any nutrition education program.

Related article: “The Gut-Sleep Connection”