Less Rest = More Food: How A Lack Of Sleep Is Causing Your Afternoon Cravings

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Some workdays are pretty standard. You eat a decent breakfast, drink your fluids, have some lunch, and if you start feeling yourself dragging in the afternoon, you come to the conclusion that it might be time for some coffee or an energy drink.

But other days? You eat a decent breakfast, drink your fluids, have some lunch, and by the late afternoon, you’re fighting to stay away from the candy jar at the front desk. You know, the jar you’ve already pulled from multiple times before you realized you had gone too far and couldn’t turn back (and wouldn’t finish filling out your meals for the day in MyFitnessPal).

Why is that?

“Our findings suggest that activation of the eCB system may be involved in excessive food intake in a state of sleep debt and contribute to the increased risk of obesity associated with insufficient sleep.”

In layman’s terms, you could have the munchies like whoa because you haven’t had enough sleep.

That quote is from a study about the effects of a lack of sleep on one’s diet. As reported by CNN, according to a recent study from the journal SLEEP (Sleep Restriction Enhances the Daily Rhythm of Circulating Levels of Endocannabinoid 2-Arachidonoylgylcerol), researchers at the University of Chicago were able to point out a connection between a lack of sleep and endocannabinoids.

Endocannabinoids are made up of neuromodulatory lipids and their receptors. Located in the mammalian brain, as well as throughout your central and peripheral nervous system, they help different cell types communicate and coordinate. They can activate the same receptors as THC, which is found in marijuana. And just as you can get the munchies after smoking marijuana, endocannabinoids, according to the study, can push you to indulge in “super-palatable foods,” which is basically everything you love that’s not good for you. The goodies high in fat, great in sugar and elevated regarding sodium. All the things that you think will give you the boost of energy you’ve been trying to operate without after a rough night of sleep. As CNN pointed out, having 4.5 hours of sleep instead of 8.5 could bring about 33 percent more endocannabinoids, which could cause individuals to eat double their usual amount of fat and 46 percent more calories in a day.

And as also pointed out by CNN, a Mayo Clinic study from 2012 found that those who lost 80 minutes of rest from their sleep pattern ended up consuming about 549 additional calories the following day.

Of course, we can’t always get all the sleep we want. And many of us try to catch up on lost rest during the weekends. But what should we do during the week when our rest hours are few? More than anything, I think that keeping healthy snacks nearby is the way to go. That way, when you do have “the munchies,” you won’t find yourself overdoing it on the usual chips, sweets and the like. Fruit, low-calorie air-popped popcorn, fruit smoothie juices (like ones from brands including Naked, Odwalla, etc.), nuts, granola bars, cereal and more can fill you up without tearing you up. They can give you the sweets and hints of salt you may pine for come 3 p.m. And if your schedule isn’t what’s keeping you up at night, make a better effort to go to bed at a reasonable time. Your waistline will thank you.

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