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Is this the reason you can't resist eating cookies?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
eating cookies

There is one common health problem shared by forty percent of the adult population that could be preventing you from losing weight. Is this the reason you can't resist eating cookies and other high-fat foods?


Lack of sleep boosts brain chemicals that make us want to eat sweets and high fat foods. The result of insomnia, or just skimping on a good night's sleep can thwart your diet plan in ways that haven't been completely understood.

What happens to weight loss efforts from lack of sleep

The study that was published in the journal SLEEP, February 19, 2016 describes how short changing ourselves on sleeping activates chemicals targeted by marijuana.

The result is a "hedonistic" desire for food that seems to be most pronounced in the later afternoon and early evening.

Study participants that were sleep deprived were unable to resist snacks even though they ate plenty of calories 2 hours before the experiment.

The chemical activated by too little sleep is endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) that is typically low when we sleep at night - 2-AG slowly rises throughout the day and then reaches a peak early in the afternoon, around lunchtime.

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But with sleep deprivation 2-AG reaches higher than usual levels that persist into the evening, making snacking irresistible. Study participants ate twice as much fat when they were sleep deprived and they reported being hungrier.

The researchers wanted to know more about how sleep loss can make us gain weight. Obesity and lack of sleep are common problems that appear to be interconnected.

They measured levels of the so-called hunger hormone ghrelin in addition to 2-AG levels. With enough sleep, study participants' levels peaked and then decreased.

Approximately forty-percent of Americans reported in a 2013 Gallup poll that they sleep less than 7 hours a night.

Erin Hanlon, PhD, a research associate in endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism at the University of Chicago explains we burn more calories when we stay up late and skimp on sleep, but the resultant binging from lack of sleep adds up to taking in more calories.

Hanlon says if you've had enough sleep you can probably eat just one Snickers bar. But if you're sleep deprived the desire for certain foods gets stronger. "Do that again and again, and you pack on the pounds," the researcher adds.

Now let's do something about your sleep to help you lose weight