Skimping on Sleep Causes Hunger and Lousy Food Choices

Posted 04/13/2016 | By HealthCorps

One habit necessary to healthy living is targeting adequate, deep sleep. Researchers have known for some time that inadequate sleep or poor quality sleep can instigate hunger, unhealthy food choices and weight gain. A new study published in the journal Sleep looks at how this vicious cycle is instigated. It’s all connected to amplification of a blood signal that is involved in the pleasure of eating and especially from eating sweet, salty or fatty foods. Not getting enough sleep raises the risk of overeating and obesity.

The study investigated the impact of sleep loss on the appetites of fourteen young, healthy volunteers. Sleep restriction seems to boost a signal that may increase the hedonic aspect of food intake. Loss of sleep seems to amplify the endocannabinoid system, the same system that is targeted by the active ingredient in marijuana. The net results after documenting inadequate or poor quality sleep in the participants were:

• Subjects were unable to resist highly palatable snacks like cookies, candy, chips, despite having eaten a full meal two hours earlier.
• Amplification of snacking was especially obvious in the late afternoon hours and evening hours.
• Endocannabinoid levels that should normally be low overnight and then very slowly increase during daytime hours, stayed high in the evening and remained high well beyond midnight, in the sleep deprived subjects, prompting very late night snacking.

During the study, after restricted sleep there was a prominent rise in hunger after the second meal of the day. After four restricted nights of sleep, the subjects struggled to limit snack consumption. They also chose foods with 50% more calories, and foods with almost double the fat, compared to foods they chose on the days after they slept through the night. Overall, the subjects were much hungrier the day after a poor night’s sleep, compared to a day after a refreshing and adequate night’s sleep. The hedonic drive to eat was significantly heightened when the subjects did not sleep enough.

The link between sleep restriction and obesity is well documented, which is why sleep is considered a cornerstone of healthy living. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), about 30% of Americans get less than seven hours of sleep per night, and more than one third of American adults are overweight. This study helps to clarify why a healthy sleep habit is crucial to weight maintenance and overall health.

Some quick sleep tips:

• Avoid caffeine after 2 P.M.
• Avoid eating within three hours of bedtime
• Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time everyday
Exercise daily
• Create a bedtime ritual that sets you up for restful sleep – turn off the TV and tech devices, darken the room, make sure the room is cool

Also read: Sleep Deprivation and Junk Food Snacking – The Real Deal

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