While there have been countless reports linking sleep deprivation to obesity, how inadequate sleep can fuel weight gain is unclear. According to a new study published in Sleep, the real culprit is the endocannabinoid (eCB) system.
The system is the one that controls a person's appetite and energy homeostasis. It turns out that lack of sleep can activate 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) found in the eCB system and lead to appetite-enhancing effects.
"There are remarkable parallels between the effects of activation of the eCB system and the effect of experimental sleep restriction," the researchers behind the study wrote. "Just as in a state of sleep debt, CB1 receptor activity increases feeding behavior in excess of energy need, reduces glucose tolerance, tends to reduce leptin levels and to promote ghrelin release, and stimulates reward and addiction."
When a person lack sleep, he or she might crave for something to eat all the time. And when they do, they are unlikely to crave for healthy foods. They will choose snacks with 50% more calories and twice the fat that snacks chosen by those who are not sleep-deprived. They are likely to choose chips and other junk foods.
Junk food not only contains insane amount of calories and fat, they also prime the brain to eat more, according to News Max Health. According to a recent study by Canadian scientists, eating high-fat sweets can alter the brain chemicals, which can lead to cravings for the same unhealthy foods. Even though the researchers mainly generated the findings from data gathered from mice, they said the results can be applicable to humans too.