A new study suggests that falling behind on sleep can lead to a similar side effect of smoking marijuana.
Getting a good night’s sleep has always been recommended by health professionals, but a recent study suggests that failing to do so could be as bad as using marijuana. According to a report from the New York Times, scientists have presented evidence that suggests sleep deprivation can cause the same types of cravings for junk food as the ones caused by marijuana.
Junk food cravings can be hard to control in some cases, and researchers believe that failing to get your 40 winks can contribute to obesity and a wide range of other metabolic disorders.
Scientists found that brain receptors responsible for the cravings were the same whether they were activated by a lack of sleep or by marijuana. By skipping out on sleep, people may be unintentionally giving themselves a wicked case of the munchies.
The study examined the receptors in the brain that are triggered by endocannabinoids, or chemicals present in marijuana. These chemicals were found to be closely related to the brain’s perception of hunger, causing people to seek foods high in salt, fat and calories when they weren’t actually hungry.
Researchers found that as people slept less, endocannabinoid levels in the blood spiked. This resulted in intense cravings, especially in the early afternoon. The study followed fourteen healthy people between the ages of 18 and 30. Each subject underwent four nights of regular sleep or sleep deprivation, and was given two regular meals and access to unhealthy snacks like chips, candy, ice cream, and a few healthy options like fruit and yogurt.
Sleep deprived subjects felt hungrier and had less self control when in the presence of so many snacks. People who didn’t get a regular nights sleep ate almost twice as much fat and protein as the control group.
This doesn’t look great for the average American, who doesn’t get the minimum amount of sleep recommended for adults. Sleep deprivation is widespread, and it could be contributing to the obesity epidemic to a degree researchers never before imagined.
The study, published in the journal SLEEP, can be found here.