Sleep Deprivation May Give You the Munchies

The sleep-deprived and the stoned both have boosted levels of the same pleasure chemical in their bloodstreams, researchers find.



Lack of sleep can leave you with a case of the munchies similar to what marijuana users experience, according to a study reported on by HealthDay.

The small study, conducted by the University of Chicago Medical Center, measured the food intake for 14 participants over a period of eight days in a lab setting. Researchers controlled the amount of sleep participants got during the course of the study. For four of those days, the participants were allowed to sleep approximately 7.5 hours, and for the other four days, they were allowed to sleep approximately 4.2 hours. Throughout the study, they were given access to junk food consisting of candy, cookies, and chips.

Anyone who has pulled an all-nighter could tell you what was going to happen in this study. Predictably, when sleep-deprived, the participants consumed double the amount of fat than they did when they had adequate sleep. They most often indulged before and after dinner time.

What researchers discovered when they took blood samples was that the participants had more of the chemical endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) in their bloodstream when they were sleep deprived. This is the chemical that boosts the pleasure associated with eating junk food. Elevated levels of this chemical show up in the bloodstream after marijuana use, as well.

(Of course, several other studies have found that marijuana users had, on average, a lower body mass index than those who didn’t use the drug, even when dealing with the munchies. It seems that researchers have not yet isolated the effects of all the chemical interactions at play with marijuana use. But we digress.)

Getting enough sleep means you will be more resistant to eating unhealthy food. If you’ve ever needed an excuse to get to bed early, the results of this study might be it. According to the National Sleep Foundation, an adult between the ages of 26 and 64 should get somewhere between six to 10 hours of sleep a night. Shoot for somewhere in that range and see if your junk food consumption goes down.

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Emma Dunn is a Writing, Literature, and Publishing student at Emerson College in Boston. Besides writing for Type2Nation and Insulin Nation, she also writes for the online publication, The Odyssey.