March 17, 2016
If you’re trying to lose weight or maintain your current weight, you probably know the drill. Eat right, exercise and get a handle on your stress levels. But there’s another factor that many people overlook; it’s insidious and can sabotage even the most determined among us: sleep.
Or, more specifically, lack of sleep. This presents a hurdle to weight loss and maintenance in a number of ways, including affecting your food cravings. Trying to eat right when you’re sleep deprived is like trying to dry off in the rain; it’s very difficult.
When you’re tired, your body is running on reserves and what energy you do have you’ll devote to the essential tasks of your day – caring for your children, work obligations and the like.
While on a day you’re feeling well-rested you might also have the energy to devote to planning and preparing healthy meals, on a sleep-deprived day you’ll probably succumb to the temptation to just order takeout. There’s far more to this cycle than simple lack of energy, however.
Lack of Sleep Gives You the Munchies
“The munchies” is a well-known phenomenon associated with marijuana use. The drug makes junk foods seem irresistible, and when you eat them they taste especially flavorful and satisfying. But it’s not only marijuana that causes the munchies – so, too, does sleep deprivation.
Like marijuana, it’s believed that “sleep restriction is associated with activation of the endocannabinoid (eCB) system, a key component of hedonic pathways involved in modulating appetite and food intake,” according to recent research published in the journal Sleep.1
The study compared the effects of four nights of normal sleep (8.5 hours) with four nights of restricted sleep (4.5 hours) among 14 young adults. Levels of endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG), a chemical that makes foods pleasurable, were elevated when the participants were sleep deprived.2