How well does some chocolate sound around 10 pm? Maybe a bag of Doritos? A new study suggests that those cravings may mean that you’re sleep deprived. Previous studies have shown that one in three adults do not get enough sleep, and about the same percentage are obese.
A new study by Erin Hanlon from the University of Chicago has set out to discover if these two issues are connected. The study monitored 14 healthy young adults over 4 days. Some study participants slept a normal length of time (approximately 8.5 hours) while others slept an average of 4.5 hours, which is considered a restricted amount of time.
Throughout the study, all participants were provided carefully prepared meals. On the last day, everyone was given a healthy meal followed by an open snack bar with treats such as cookies, candy, and chips. The study showed that participants in the sleep-deprived group reached for snacks with more carbohydrates and twice as much fat and protein.
Researchers also measured the levels of a particular endocannabinoid (2AG) in the blood of all study participants. For participants with normal sleep conditions, the concentration of 2AG gradually increased during the day and peaked in the early afternoon. These participants will look for that pick me up snack by rooting through their desks for Reese’s cup or make a run to the snack machine at that time.
For the study participants with a restricted amount of time sleep conditions, their levels of 2AG were higher and more concentrated later in the evening. This caused these participants to be hungrier later in the evening and more likely to reach for unhealthy snacks at that time, which can cause weight gain and other health problems.
This study is continuing to research what the negative outcomes are of sleep deprivation and how to overcome them. Becoming aware of how to get adequate sleep is of utmost importance to the study.