Feeling stressed at work can lead to us reaching for unhealthy snacks and extra portions, but a new study has found that getting enough sleep could help buffer the negative effect of stress on eating habits.
Carried out by a team of researchers from Michigan State University, the University of Illinois, the University of Florida, and Auburn University in the US, along with Sun Yat-sen University in China, the study is one of the first to look at how psychological experiences at work can affect eating behaviors.
The team looked at two studies of 235 total workers in China who experienced regular stress in their jobs.
One study included IT employees who had a high workload and felt there was never enough time in the workday, while the second included call-center workers who experienced stress from dealing with rude and demanding customers.
The researchers found that in both studies employees who had a stressful workday also had a tendency to take these negative feelings home with them, and to the dinner table, leading to them eating more than usual and make unhealthier food choices.
However, the study also showed that sleep could be a way to buffer this effect of stress on unhealthy eating, with the team finding that employees who got a good night’s sleep the night before tended to eat better the next day after a stressful day at work.
Yihao Liu, co-author and assistant professor at the University of Illinois gave two possible explanations for the findings.
“First, eating is sometimes used as an acti