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The cure for junk food craving is sleep

By: Edlis Vasallo

If you crave chocolate or potato chips after a long and hectic day at work, then you’re most probably sleep-deprived, according to a study conducted by the University of Chicago.  Researchers found a connection between lack of sleep and an increase in appetite, specifically junk food.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in three U.S adults don’t get enough sleep, and about the same percentage are obese. Erin Hanlon, a research associate at the University of Chicago, managed to make this connection between these two nationwide problems.  She states that, “Evidence from laboratory and epidemiological studies has consistently associated insufficient sleep with an increased risk of obesity.”  Lack of sleep can be a risk factor since it boosts hunger, due to the balance between the nutrients we consume and the energy used while staying awake.

Hanlon’s study compared 14 healthy young adults who had four night of normal sleep (8.5 hours) with those who had four nights of restricted sleep (4.5 hours). Both groups were fed with carefully prepared meals. On the last night of the study, after eating their meal, both groups were taken to a snack bar containing delicious treats like cookies, chips, chocolate, and candy. Those in the sleep deprived group tended to eat snacks with more carbohydrates and nearly twice as much fat and protein.

The team’s research suggested that sleep deprivation affected levels of endocannabinoids, chemicals in the brain that regulate appetite and bind to the same receptors as marijuana. “The increase in endocannabinoid concentration occurred at the same time people reported feeling hungrier,” Hanlon said.

Sleep deprivation has been associated with many negative outcomes. It is extremely important that we understand how getting enough rest can improve our health and lives.

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