Researchers have discovered that sleep deprivation might have a common effect with smoking pot: getting the munchies. It appears that people who do not get enough sleep start seeing food as more appealing because the same areas of the brain are affected.
According to Erin Hanlon, University of Chicago endocrinology research associate,
“We know that when people use marijuana, they overeat. And they tend to eat things that are yummy and rewarding.”
In order to reach this bewildering conclusion, Hanlon and her team analyzed endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol, a brain chemical otherwise known as 2-AG. This chemical is very similar to the ones from cannabis. However, it is created inside the brain and thus affects pleasure, pain and non-surprisingly appetite.
In order to see how sleep deprivation affects 2-AG, Hanlon conducted an experiment that involved fourteen people aged from twenty to thirty. The volunteers stayed in the sleep center of the university for four days, where both sound and light were controlled by the researchers. Their meals and their timing were strictly monitored, and they were allowed to sleep either four hours and a half or eight hours and a half.
The results of the test have proven that when the volunteers lacked sleep their 2-AG levels were higher for a longer time. Furthermore, they also tended to eat unhealthy foods. Hanlon explained that the reward system is triggered by the activation of the cannabinoid system.
Blood tests have pointed towards the fact that 2-AG levels are usually low during the night and start rising in the morning. Their peak is reached in the afternoon. However, the volunteers who were deprived of sleep recorded higher levels of the chemical that stayed the same during the evening.
This is not the first time that the lack of sleep has been linked to a heavier appetite. Previous research has demonstrated that sleep deprivation also affects leptin and ghrelin which are appetite hormones.
The discovery might prove the reason two-thirds of U.S. citizens are obese or overweight. Since the CDC has reported that at least one-third of Americans lacks sleep, it would not be surprising if the two are actually linked.
Hanlon has stated that the next step in this research is to determine how 2-AG appears in the brain, because some theories say that it might also be produced in fat cells or the stomach.
In the end, the best solution seems to be to get the recommended amount of sleep, and avoid spending countless hours of social media before going to bed.
Image Source: Maroon Weekly