In a study performed by Erin Hanlon, a research associate at the University of Chicago, researchers revealed that lack of sleep induced higher levels of endocannibinoids, a brain chemical that binds to the same receptors as marijuana and regulates our appetite.
As the CDC states, one in three American adults don’t get enough sleep, which happens to match around the same percentage of obese American adults. Hanlon was interested in connecting these two problems and found that there may, indeed, be a connection between obesity and adequate sleep.
The study compared the appetites of adults who got 8.5 hours of sleep vs those who received only 4.5 hours of sleep. The result was that those with less sleep were more apt to eat unhealthy junk food high in sugar the longer they stayed awake. These people’s endocannibinoid levels were higher than those who got a full night’s sleep.
“We are trying to get out awareness that people need to think of adequate sleep as an important aspect of maintaining good health,” Hanlon told CNN.com
While there are many studies published regarding the causes of obesity, sleep deprivation hasn’t received the attention Hanlon felt it deserved, so she got the support of researchers from Universite Libre de Bruxelles and Medical College of Wisconsin. The researchers were able to measure the concentration of a specific endocannabinoid called 2AG in the blood and found the results surprising.