Have you ever battled food cravings after dinner? Maybe you’re winding down for the night and it’s 9 or 10 o’clock and you’re craving some cookies or crackers. I’m sure you thought, “I had a full meal two hours ago. Why am I looking for food?” You may not even feel hungry. The need to eat seems to be coming from your brain!
Food scientists have known for some time that sleep deprivation can increase hunger. They’ve attributed it partially to an imbalance of the hunger and satiety hormones ghrelin and leptin. But a recent study published in the journal Sleep also found that there were higher levels of an endocannabinoid signaling molecule found in the blood of people who were sleep deprived. The endocannabinoid system, within our nervous system, helps control basic processes such as appetite, pain and mood and is the system affected by cannabis, i.e. THC, pot, marijuana.
So the hunger you experience after a night of little sleep is mediated by the same mechanisms that leads to the munchies that people get after smoking or ingesting marijuana. The study created a very specific circumstance of sleep deprivation; the subjects were only allowed 4.5 hours of sleep. I think it’s also possible that the same reaction can also be generated from 8 hours of poor quality sleep. This is more evidence that we all need to focus on getting more sleep.
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