The Reason Sleep Loss Causes 'Marijuana Munchies'

Lack of sleep makes you tired, but a new study shows how it can also affect your waist line.

March 2, 2016
woman snacking late at night
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Skimping on sleep will not only make you exhausted and irritable the next morning, but a new study shows that loss of zzz's may also be the reason behind your junk food cravings. 

According to a study published in the journal SLEEP, running on low amounts of sleep will cause you to go through a "marijuana munchies"-style of cravings. 

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Researchers found that people who did not get sufficient sleep were far more likely to reach for junk food when it was offered, even though they had recently eaten and consumed up to 90 percent of their daily caloric intake. The snacking habits also were most common late in the afternoon and early in the evening and subjects who were running low on sleep were found to eat up to two times as much fat in the afternoon when compared to subjects who slept eight hours. 

When measuring the participants' blood levels of endocannabinoids, which are chemicals that boost the food cravings and are present in the body after ingesting marijuana, the study authors discovered that the sleep deprived crown not only had endocannabinoids measurements of about a third higher than their well-slept cohorts, but remained consistently higher throughout the entire day and evening. 

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"If you have a Snickers bar, and you've had enough sleep, you can control your natural response," says Erin Hanlon, PhD, an author of the study. "But if you're sleep deprived, your hedonic drive for certain foods gets stronger, and your ability to resist them may be impaired. So you are more likely to eat it."