According to the Chicago Sun Times, a lack of sleep can result in the same hunger for junk food as marijuana. The same sort of cravings were found in blood levels of those who were sleep deprived as those who had been getting high.
"Sleep restriction seems to augment the endocannabinoid system the same system targeted by the active ingredient of marijuana to enhance the desire for food intake," said Erin Hanlon, one of the researchers involved in the study at the University of Chicago.
Researchers studied the blood levels of individuals, all of whom were in their twenties, who had gone with fewer hours of sleep each night. Participants were only allowed four and a half hours of sleep each night as opposed to their regular eight, and then told to go about their day.
As hypothesized the endocannnabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol, or 2-AG, remained at high levels throughout the day, causing participants to eat more. And even after a meal that provided the day's necessary caloric intake was not enough; those studied could not refuse a bag of chips or a candy bar as a snack.
In all, sleep-deprived participants consumed up to 50 more calories and twice as much fat in comparison to when they were well-rested. And if this happens again and again, it can lead to serious health problems such as obesity.
"If you have a Snickers bar, and you've had enough sleep, you can control your natural response," said Hanlon. "But if you're sleep-deprived, your ability to resist them may be impaired. So you are more likely to eat it. Do that again and again, and you pack on the pounds."
Hanlon and other researchers from the University of Chicago have published their findings in the scientific journal SLEEP.