A new study published in the journal Sleep sheds light on why sleep deprivation causes people to eat more, thereby increasing their risk of obesity. The disorder increases blood levels of endocannabinoids. They are chemicals that produce hunger pains. These compounds are thusly named because they activate the same receptor of the active component of cannabis, the marijuana plant.
In other words, poor sleep triggers a case of the marijuana munchies.
Sleep-Deprived People Eat Twice as Much Fat
The study’s participants were 14 healthy non-obese adults between the ages of 18 and 30. They underwent four nights of sleeping either 7.5 hours or 4 hours, after which they were given three meals per day and unlimited access to snacks. Their munchable options included junk food, such as candy, ice cream, Cheetos and Doritos, along with healthy food like fruit and yogurt.
Participants who were sleep deprived clearly felt hungrier. They were inclined to overeat unhealthy foods. They consumed almost twice as much fat as the well-rested group. The results corroborate earlier studies that suggest sleep loss leads to a spike in fat and carbohydrate cravings.
The Reason Why Sleep-Deprived People Snack More
To determine why poor sleep led to snacking, the researchers measured blood levels of different compounds associated with hunger. They found the sleep-deprived participants had a 33 percent higher level of endocannabinoid 2-AG. This chemical boosts eating pleasure, particularly with salty or sweet high-fat foods. In addition, unlike the well-rested group, the levels of 2-AG stayed high in the afternoon and evening.
“We know that marijuana activates the endocannabinoid system and causes people to overeat when they are not hungry. And they normally eat yummy sweet and fatty foods,” lead author Dr. Erin Hanlon said. “Sleep restriction may cause overeating by acting in the same manner.”
Poor Sleep Can Lead to Obesity
Interestingly, the trend in recent years to get by with less sleep correlates with an increased incidence of obesity. Statistics from the National Health interview survey show nearly 30 percent of Americans get 6 hours of sleep or less per night. This is an hour less than the minimum of 7 hours per night experts recommend. It is no surprise that data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed two thirds of Americans older than 20 are overweight.
“We got into a kind of rhythm in our culture where you sleep with the time you have left over,” Hanlon said. “We’re hoping that individuals will start to think of adequate sleep as kind of an important aspect of maintaining good health, and not just as a byproduct of the day.”
By making a good night’s rest a priority, you will become less inclined to make unhealthy choices throughout the day.
Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at http://www.alternativemedicinetruth.com. Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.