New Research Says That Taking Even a Lunch Break Each Day Can Help You Better Understand Your Hunger Cues

·3 min read

If you take a lunch break each day, you're not just treating your body to a tasty meal. According to new research, you're also helping it with important functions. First and foremost, studies suggest that taking a temporary step away from your tasks for lunch helps you stay in tune with your body, CNN reports. "Carving out time for a satiating, balanced lunch can really help organize the eating day and keep us in better touch with our actual hunger cues," Tamara Duker Freuman, a registered dietitian nutritionist, told the outlet. "So we can eat when hungry and be less likely to snack our way through the entire workday." In fact, just half an hour a day "will help to avoid a late afternoon slump and keep you energized throughout the afternoon," added registered dietitian nutritionist Lisa Young.

woman plating salad at lunch
woman plating salad at lunch

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The experts also explained that missing lunch altogether can cause everything from low blood sugar to irritability. What's more, skipping your midday meal can prevent you from falling asleep easily at night; it might also make you eat more than you normally would at night. "I often find that patients who struggle with excess, uncontrollable night eating find it much easier to manage when they are heading into the dinner meal feeling quite satiated and not particularly starving, because they've had a great breakfast and a very filling, balanced lunch," Freuman said.

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In general, short breaks have also been proven to help people learn, too. According to a recent study published in Cell Reports, researchers discovered that in order to learn a new skill (such as playing the piano), a rest period helped people's brains replay the activity faster. And the quicker the replay, the better the performed activity and memory of the task. "Our results support the idea that wakeful rest plays just as important a role as practice in learning a new skill. It appears to be the period when our brains compress and consolidate memories of what we just practiced," Leonardo G. Cohen, M.D., senior investigator at the NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and the senior study author, said. "Understanding this role of neural replay may not only help shape how we learn new skills but also how we help patients recover skills lost after neurological injury like stroke."

The research team used magnetoencephalography, a brain scan technique, on 33 right-handed participants in their study as they learned how to type a five-digit code with their left hands. The volunteers were shown a "41234" code on a screen and they had to type it as many times as they could before taking a 10-second rest period. After completing this test 35 times, the scientists found that their participants typed the correct code quicker as the trial run went on and their minds replayed the fastest sequence of events during the break. "During the early part of the learning curve we saw that wakeful rest replay was compressed in time, frequent, and a good predictor of variability in learning a new skill across individuals," said Ethan R. Buch, Ph.D., a staff scientist on Dr. Cohen's team and leader of the study. "This suggests that during wakeful rest the brain binds together the memories required to learn a new skill."