Often, after a late night with little sleep, we wake up the next day and are starving! This phenomenon is no coincidence. A study was conducted with healthy non-obese adults to see the effects of sleep deprivation on appetite levels. The results revealed that students that had four-and-a-half hours of sleep compared to students who had eight-and-a-half hours of sleep had an elevation of the endocannabinoid molecule (2- arachidonoylyglycerol) in their blood. Normally, the levels of this molecule are highest in individuals during the early afternoon period. However, if an individual is sleep deprived, the levels of this molecule during early afternoon are even higher, causing them to eat more.
Another hormone found at higher levels if sleep is cut short is ghrelin. With little sleep, ghrelin causes people to be attracted to larger amounts of food due to an increased feeling of hunger. Unfortunately, losing sleep does not only cause you to eat more, but it also causes you to crave unhealthy foods that are high in fat and sugar. A boost in ghrelin production limits the amount of leptin that your body makes. A decrease in leptin means that instead of reaching for an apple to snack on, you will instead be tempted to have junk food.
The take home message is to make a conscious effort to get a good night’s sleep. It will not only improve your mood, but it will also help you maintain a healthy body weight.
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