Researchers have found out that sleep deprivation causes severe hunger pangs. Thus insomniacs may be more prone to the ravages of obesity.
Evidence has emerged time and again that skimping on sleep leads to obesity along with several other illnesses. Now, for the first time, scientists have found out the exact biochemical and hormonal mechanisms that underlie this strange link between less refreshing sleep and a bad case of the munchies.
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For one thing, sleep-deprived brains crave junk food in all its tasty variety. The pathways that were followed by the brain’s chemicals responsible for this oral fixation were the same as are to be found in case of marijuana addiction.
Not getting enough high quality, restful sleep that restored energy levels inevitably led to a constant craving for all sorts of foods high in salt, sugar, fat and processed carbohydrates.
The body does not need these extra foods yet the brain overrides the ability of the body to employ its own innate wisdom to eat when hungry and stop when satiated. The receptors in the brain that hooked up with endocannabinoids were responsible for the hunger pangs in a big way.
The act of forgoing sleep led to a sharp spike in these endocannabinoids thus increasing feeding behavior among subjects during the early afternoon. Fourteen subjects were chosen for the experiment.
They were not fat and ranged from 18 to 30 years of age. They underwent four days of deep sleep and sleep deprivation respectively. They were given all sorts of foodstuff and snacks (both healthy and unhealthy) after the two bouts of slumber and restlessness.
The results were clear as the light of day. Those who forwent sleep were hungry like a wolf and especially tempted by the junk food items among the array of eatables set before them.
The sleep-deprived were not likely to eat more than their more well-rested colleagues, but they did consume much more fats and carbohydrates instead.
This research has a significant scope in future nutritional programs for obesity prevention. Sleep seems to be a key component in the weight loss equation.
The endocannabinoid connection has also been linked with the state of euphoric bliss that many runner’s experience after going on and on for miles.
Yet this is the first time that it has been found to be sleep-dependent too. Too many late nights and waking up drowsily to the alarm clock’s unnatural ring may lead one down the path of insufficient sleep and obesity.
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This study has been published in the journal SLEEP.