Until now you thought that your love for marijuana was the reason for your munchies, but you’ll never guess what else can actually give you the munchies. According to a recent study at the University of Chicago, sleep deprivation is also the cause of an increase in the appetite for salty and sweet treats. The results are quite substantial, going into the link between obesity and sleep deprivation.

Just by depriving oneself of sleep, one can experience an increase in appetite a lot like the one experienced after getting stoned. The results even suggest that it may be a reaction of the body that causes the hunger boost much like getting the munchies after a joint.

Conducting the study

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The University of Chicago invited 14 men and women in their twenties to come and participate in two sessions at the clinical research centre there at the university. The researchers controlled the sleep patterns of the participants, meaning that sometimes they slept 7 hours and at other times their sleep was reduced down to only 4 hours and 11 minutes. The researchers also controlled how much food and what food was being served to the participants, serving them three meals a day at 9 am, 2 pm and 7 pm.

After the fourth night of each session, the participants were offered snacks from which to choose. They included the kind of snacks we like to indulge in when we are stoned, such as extremely sweet or salty food. They found that those that were sleep deprived were far less likely to resist the offer of snacks, and their urge to binge on them was highest in the afternoon right through to the early evening.

Sleep deprivation and obesity

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It has long been believed that there is a link between sleep deprivation and obesity, and this study can confirm the very reason that they may be linked. Depriving the human body of sleep interfere’s with its production of hormones that control things like appetite and satiety.

The scientists conducting this study looked into the kind of hormones that were present in the blood during the study. They looked specifically at the hormones ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is the hormone that deals with appetite whereas leptin is the hormone that tells the brain when the body is full of food.

The endocannabinoid system

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Finally, the scientists decided that they would delve a little further into the body’s craving for food and have a look at the endocannabinoid system, the same system that is excited and activated by using marijuana. Erin Hanlon, who lead the study, found that there was a certain endocannabinoid that was increased after sleep deprivation that could be the cause for the increase in appetite.

Endocannabinoid 2-AG is the chemical that increases the amount of pleasure you feel after you eat, and is an endocannabinoid that also increases after the use of marijuana. “We know that marijuana activates the endocannabinoid system and causes people to overeat when they are not hungry, and they normally eat yummy sweet and fatty foods,” Hanlon said. “Sleep restriction may cause overeating by acting in the same manner.”

So it seems that sleep deprivation has a very similar effect on the body in terms of appetite as using marijuana does. This means that a future of dealing with obesity through medicine that targets the endocannabinoid system is possible, although much more consideration would be required before moving into it.

Do you experience the munchies when you are sleep deprived? Let us know your thoughts on our social media or in the comments section below.