MAR 24, 2016 4:44 AM PDT

Stone Tired? Get More Sleep and Lose the Munchies

Sleep can be a precious commodity for some. Whether it’s long work hours, hectic family life or just insomnia, losing sleep has consequences beyond just a few yawns and a slow start in the morning. Numerous studies have shown that a lack of sleep can cause memory issues, low productivity and even dangerous accidents. Sleep deprivation was cited as a partial cause in disasters such as the meltdown at Three Mile Island, the accident at Chernobyl and even the grounding of the Exxon Valdez. New research from the University of Chicago now suggests that losing sleep can also make you overeat, not just out of boredom or fatigue but in response to a chemical signal that is similar to what happens in the brain when a person uses marijuana.
 
Much like pot, sleep deprivation makes you hungry

The study used volunteers that had been deprived of sleep. One group was allowed to sleep for 8.5 hours, the other group was woken up after only four hours of sleep. All were young and healthy, however despite being given a meal that supplied almost an entire days worth of necessary calories, the participants were unable to resist junk food if they had slept for half the time as their study counterparts. The snacks were all goodies that are most tempting, such as chips, candy and cookies, much like what the body craves after smoking pot.
 
The team at the Medicine and Biological Sciences Department of the university found that a specific level of a chemical in the blood known as the endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol or 2-AG, which is normally low at night and rises slowly throughout the day, rose faster and higher in subjects that had not had a full night’s sleep. It also stayed at higher levels longer.
 
Dr. Erin Hanlon, PhD is a research associate in diabetes and metabolism at the university and in a press release she said, “We found that sleep restriction boosts a signal that may increase the hedonic aspect of food intake, the pleasure and satisfaction gained from eating. Sleep restriction seems to augment the endocannabinoid system, the same system targeted by the active ingredient of marijuana, to enhance the desire for food intake.” 
 
For the study subjects who had 8 hours of sleep, the times they felt hungry corresponded with the peak levels of 2-AG in their blood. Their levels peaked at about 12:30pm and then declined steadily. For the sleep-deprived group however the levels rose almost 33 percent higher than those of the well-rested group and didn’t peak until about 2pm, remaining elevated until 9pm.
 
Hanlon told NBC News "If you have a Snickers bar, and you've had enough sleep, you can control your natural response. But if you're sleep-deprived, your hedonic drive for certain foods gets stronger, and your ability to resist them may be impaired so you are more likely to eat it. Do that again and again, and you pack on the pounds."

The team wants to do further research to find out how the 2-AG endocannabinoids are being over-produced and if that mechanism can be manipulated. Check out the video below to learn more and find out how to avoid the trap of sleep-deprived munchies.
 
 
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
NOV 01, 2020
Neuroscience
Depression Increases Risk of Having a Stroke
NOV 01, 2020
Depression Increases Risk of Having a Stroke
Researchers in Alabama have found that people who suffer from multiple depressive symptoms are at an increased risk of h ...
NOV 01, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
Can Cannabis Treat ALS?
NOV 01, 2020
Can Cannabis Treat ALS?
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a neurodegenerative illness that damages motor neurons and leads to progressive m ...
NOV 20, 2020
Drug Discovery & Development
Cat Parasite Gives Clues on New Drug Targets for Schizophrenia
NOV 20, 2020
Cat Parasite Gives Clues on New Drug Targets for Schizophrenia
Researchers from the UK and France have discussed a mechanism of action behind the infamous Toxoplasma gondii  ...
DEC 28, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
Does Cannabis Affect Stress in Men and Women Differently?
DEC 28, 2020
Does Cannabis Affect Stress in Men and Women Differently?
Researchers from Washington State University have found that cannabis may blunt the stress response differently in males ...
DEC 28, 2020
Neuroscience
Prenatal Metal Exposure Has Long Term Health Consequences
DEC 28, 2020
Prenatal Metal Exposure Has Long Term Health Consequences
Researchers from Rutgers University have found that prenatal exposure to metals, including lead, arsenic, cobalt, and ni ...
JAN 08, 2021
Neuroscience
Brain Scans Show Why Comedy-News Shows are More Memorable
JAN 08, 2021
Brain Scans Show Why Comedy-News Shows are More Memorable
Comedy-news shows such as those by Trevor Noah, John Oliver, and Samantha Bee on the rise and are especially popular amo ...
Loading Comments...