A study, conducted by the University of Chicago Medical Centre, discovered a link between sleep loss and a decreased ability to resist high-fat snack foods.
The research demonstrated how sleep-deprived participants displayed elevated levels of a chemical called endocannabinoid; this chemical signal enhances the pleasure of eating snack foods, and leads to an increased calorie intake.
“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 Erin Hanlon, a research associate in endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at the University of Chicago.
“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.”
Participants in the study were provided with a meal that made up 90 per cent of their daily caloric needs, but less than two hours later, were unable to resist snacking on “highly palatable, rewarding” foods like biscuits, cakes and lollies.
“The energy costs of staying awake a few extra hours seem to be modest,” Hanlon explained, “but given the opportunity, the subjects in this study more than made up for it by bingeing on snacks, taking in more than 300 extra calories.
“Over time, that can cause significant weight gain.”
Text: Deirdre Fogarty, The Australian Women’s Weekly / Additional Reporting: Sean Tan