Any cannabis smoker worth her bud knows all about the munchies. But apparently, so do people who’ve experienced severe sleep deprivation.
The findings of a new study, which was published this week in the journal Sleep, indicate that not getting enough sleep produces effects almost identical to those triggered by cannabis use.
In the study, researchers monitored a group of 14 healthy men and women in their 20s.
For the experiment, study participants were asked to complete two separate four-day sleep trials in a lab.
During the first trial, participants were allowed an average of 7.5 hours of sleep per night and in the second trial, they had an average of 4.2 hours per night.
Researchers measured a number of vital statistics throughout each trial and then compared them to see if the changes in sleep altered anything in the participants’ bodies.
And as it turns out, they noticed some very interesting changes.
When participants were getting less sleep, they were much more likely to crave food.
Researchers eventually figured out that those cravings came from an over production of a brain chemical called endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol, or 2-AG for short.
And here’s where it gets really interesting.
2-AG is a naturally produced endocannabinoid that is essentially the same as some of the chemicals found in cannabis.
Apparently, the human body goes through regular cycles of 2-AG production, producing more of the chemical at certain times of the day and less at others.
But when a person doesn’t get enough sleep, that cycle is disrupted. In most cases, sleep deprivation “tricks” the body into continuing to produce 2-AG at high levels.
So basically, when it comes to the flow of endocannabinoids in the body, smoking marijuana and not sleeping enough accomplish very similar things.
And in both cases, the additional presence of those endocannabinoids produces some pretty serious cases of the munchies.
“The current study tested the hypothesis that sleep restriction is associated with activation of the endocannabinoid (eCB) system, a key component of hedonic pathways involved in modulating appetite and food intake,” the researchers wrote.
“Our findings suggest that activation of the eCB system may be involved in excessive food intake.”
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