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The cause of junk food cravings

A new study suggests that if you crave junk food after a manic day, it might be because you’re lacking sleep. The study found that sleep deprivation may lead to increased appetite and a love of unhealthy foods.

More than a third of adults in the United States don’t get enough sleep (7 or more hours per day) regularly and approximately the same amount are obese (having a BMI of more than 30.0), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Erin Hanlon, a University of Chicago research associate and study author, intended to link these two widespread issues.

Sleep deprivation increases hunger, which can be dangerous because of the fragile stability separating the expenses in energy of remaining awake and the nourishment ingested — these normally do not change if you’ve had or haven’t had enough sleep.

Hanlon’s study which was published in the journal Sleep, measured data between 14 generally healthy young adults with four normal nights of sleep (8.5 hours) against data of those who had four restricted nights of sleep (4.5 hours). Every day, the two groups of participants were given healthy meals. On the last day, study subjects were provided with a carefully prepared meal, accompanied by unrestricted freedom at a snack bar that contained plenty of junk food. The young adults who had four nights of restricted sleep gravitated to snacks with almost double the fat and protein and added carbohydrates.

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“Sleep deprivation increases hunger.’

Previous research by the University of Chicago team indicated that sleep deprivation influenced endocannabinoid levels, chemicals in the brain that are associated with managing and regulating appetite.

The researchers calculated the concentration of 2AG, a particular endocannabinoid, in the young adults’ blood. The team then correlated the young adults’ 2AG concentration levels with their hunger and food intake.

The young adults who had four nights of normal sleep, had a 2AG concentration that progressively rose in their blood throughout the day. The concentration of 2AG peaked in the early afternoon that was accompanied by the emergence of a craving for food.

Hanlon’s team recorded a higher concentration of 2AG that continued later on into the evening in the participants who slept less. Subjects were also more hungry and had a higher probability of eating junk food.

According to Hanlon, the study is a single step in comprehending how sustaining sufficient sleep can boost our health.