Losing Sleep Makes You Hungry, Study Says

Losing out on too much sleep can cause the munchies, according to a new study from the University of Chicago Medicine.

Sleep-deprived people experience higher levels of a chemical that enhances the pleasurability of eating - particularly of foods that are sweet, salty or high in fat, researchers found.

Even when participants had eaten 90 percent of their daily calories two hours before, they couldn't resist "highly palatable, rewarding snacks" when faced with the opportunity to indulge.

"We found that sleep restriction boosts a signal that may increase the hedonic aspect of food intake, the pleasure and satisfaction gained from eating," said Dr. Erin Hanlon, study contributor. "Sleep restriction seems to augment the endocannabinoid system, the same system targeted by the active ingredient of marijuana, to enhance the desire for food intake."

Sleep and weight gain

While staying awake extra hours can burn more calories, researchers found that participants more than made up for the caloric loss by eating extra after a sleep-deprived night. They also chose foods that had 50 percent more calories and twice as much fat than foods they chose after a longer night's sleep.

A 2013 Gallup poll revealed that most U.S. adults sleep an average of 6.8 hours per night, while 46 percent sleep six hours or less.

"If you have a Snickers bar, and you've had enough sleep, you can control your natural response," Hanlon said. "But if you're sleep deprived, your hedonic drive for certain foods gets stronger, and your ability to resist them may be impaired. So you are more likely to eat it. Do that again and again, and you pack on the pounds."

Source: The University of Chicago Medicine
Image courtesy of photostock/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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