Can't resist a slice of cheesecake? You sleeping habits might be to blame.
The less shut-eye a person gets, the more they eat, according to a new analysis.
This can lead to problems like obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease in the long run, the researchers added.
They explained that a range of factors come together to cause a person to overeat when they are sleep deprived. In a paper in the Journal of Health Psychology, they wrote about how these factors interact with one another. When tired, the hormones controlling appetite are affected, so people feel more hungry.
After a night of tossing and turning, levels of ghrellin - the 'hunger hormone' which stimulates appetite - are higher, previous studies have shown.This coincides with lower levels of the hormone leptin, which sends signals to the brain when fat cells are full. Tired people also suffer greater emotional stress and are more impulsive, which leads to comfort eating and the inability to resist tempting food.
Sleep deprivation makes people more emotionally stressed and impulsive, leading to comfort eating. They might also eat more to compensate for a lack of energy.
Writing in the report, the study's authors, Alyssa Lundahl and Timothy D Nelson, of the University of Nebraska, said: 'It is well recognised that food intake is implicated in many chronic health issues including obesity, diabetes and heart disease, and diet is often a target of treatment to prevent the onset of these conditions.
'Understanding the mechanisms linking disrupted sleep patterns to increased food intake is important for informing both prevention and treatment interventions for chronic health conditions.'
They said the amount of food a person eats is driven by biological, emotional, cognitive and environmental factors, and these factors are heavily altered and influenced by how much sleep a person gets.
Though diet is important to consider in the treatment for chronic health disorders such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, a closer look should be given to how sleep affects these factors, they added.
The effect is so pronounced that health professionals trying to prevent these diseases should consider changing a person's bedtime habits in order to change their diet.
The researchers concluded: 'Health psychologists should be mindful of the link between sleep and eating, and sleep should be actively considered in efforts to modify dietary behaviour.'
Are you having trouble nodding off? For sleep tips and advice, visit Dr Nerina's toolkit