We’re gathered here once again to talk about sleep – about how important it is to your health and to your day to day life. And while the previous article on this website talked about how a hectic sleep schedule can lead to an increased risk of stroke and heart attack, this one will approach a more light-hearted subject.
Noticing than when you’re tired you tend to overeat, a team of researchers from the University of Chicago’s Sleep, Metabolism and Health Center decided to test a theory that links lack of sleep with something the body goes through when consuming marijuana – not sleeping gives you the munchies.
Since evidence has been mounting these past few years that not getting enough sleep can lead to a higher risk of putting on extra weight, the team of researchers decided to actually verify if the mechanism is similar to that of becoming hungry after consuming cannabis.
According to one of the researchers involved in the study,
We know that marijuana causes individuals to overeat when they’re not hungry. Our findings suggest that sleep restrictions may be acting in the same manner and on the same system.
In order to test their theory, the researchers performed a study in one of their state of the art sleep labs. Though small itself, the sample of participants was relevant enough to the small-scale study. Eleven men and three women went through two separate four-day sessions in the sleep lab.
During one of the sessions, the participants were allowed to sleep eight and a half hours every night. During the second session, the subjects were only allowed four and a half hours of shut-eye, with no naps allowed. None of the participants left the sleep lab for the duration of each of the four day sessions.
For both sessions, the researchers had total control over how and what the participants ate for the first three days. During the fourth day in each of the two sessions, the participants were required to fast all morning before being taken to a room with a Swedish buffet with much more food than they could eat. They were also offered unlimited snacks after the buffet.
As expected after fasting, both sessions saw the participants eat a lot – enough to replenish their needed calories for the day, and even a bit more. The difference started being noticeable with the snacks. Whether rested or not, the participants did eat snack, but they ate far more when only getting 4.5 hours of sleep, even though they had just eaten a huge lunch.
At the time of their gluttonous behavior, an increase in the participants’ levels of 2-AG was noticed. That is the same chemical which gets affected by THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) when getting the munchies. This led the researchers to conclude indeed the two processes are pretty much the same.
This information will most likely be used to help combat the global obesity epidemic.
Image source: Wikimedia