CNN – It's 3am and you're up for a second night in a row. You get up and stumble into the kitchen for some warm milk that your mother swears will make you sleepy.
So why eat a bowl of cookies with a side of cookies?
"When you sleep deprived, you're not like, 'Oh, you know what, I want some carrots,'" said behavioral neurologist Erin Hanlon, who studies the relationship between brain systems and behavior at the University of Chicago.
"You crave sweets and salt "You want those chips, you want a cookie, you want some candy, you know?"
What about sleep exhaustion and junk food? The answer lies in history when we were digging into starch dirt tubers fed on sweet fruits and spilled on fatty fish.
Simply put, lack of sleep triggers ancient instincts that crave rich, sweet, fatty foods.
"Evolutionarily speaking, it was a great job to have high carbohydrates, high fat foods, because you're not constantly
"If you think that going back to feast or hunger, eating lots of carbs or fat was something your brain would say, 'Hey, we want to have this . "
" This is just the last bit of humanity that theirs He could have food around the clock or food high in saturated fat and high in carbohydrates ̵
You may have heard of two hormones that control our desire to eat: leptin and ghrelin.
" I always tell my patients to think about them with their first letter, "said sleep specialist Dr. Raj Dasgupta, associate program director of the Union for Sleep Medicine at Keck Medicine at USC.
"L & # 39; in leptin means weight loss: suppresses appetite and therefore contributes to weight loss," he said. "The 'g' in ghrelin means gain: This fast-acting hormone increases hunger and leads to weight gain."
When deprived of sleep, studies show, ghrelin levels soar as leptin dives into the nose. The result is an increase in hunger.
But food is food, so it does not explain why we crave candy instead of carrots.
To answer this, you need to look at another body system: the endocannabinoid system. Its mission is to maintain our body in homeostasis or balance, and it regulates everything from sleep to appetite, to inflammation to pain, and more.
Science discovers the first cannabinoid receptor in 1988 in the rat brain. Within a few years, they discovered two receptors, CB1 and CB2, and found that it was present in all vertebrates – mammals, birds, reptiles and fish – and probably some invertebrates.
We now know that this is an ancient system that evolved before the aeons. In fact, the most primitive animal known to have cannabinoid receptors is the seaweed that lived more than 600 million years ago.
What does this system have to do with nutrition? Endocannabinoids bind to the same receptors as the active ingredient in marijuana, which, as we know, often triggers the "moths."
"We know that you can infuse endocannabinoids in specific regions of the animal's brain and make them feed," Hanlon said. "They will eat specific things, more pleasant things. They will choose sucrose over saccharine, despite the fact that in theory they both taste the same, but sucrose has more carbohydrates."
Researchers now believe that it may be the endocannabinoid system that triggers our hedonistic desires for oily, starchy and sugary foods.
And like leptin and ghrelin, sleep deprivation seems to make it worse.
In a study published in 2016, Hanlon compared circulating levels of 2-AG, one of the most common endocannabinoids, in people who received four nights of normal sleep (more than eight hours) by people who were received only 4.5 hours.
People who have been deprived of sleep report a greater increase in hunger and appetite and have higher afternoon concentrations of 2-AG than those who have slept well. They also had a rough time controlling their desire for high-calorie snacks.
Why? "We don't know," Hanlon said.
All this research is so new that science still does not know how everything is matched or what can be done about it.
And this brings us to the Bottom line: There will be no pill soon for sleep deprived drug users, sleep deprived as we are.
Instead, you will have to do what the doctor says to reduce your illicit thirst in the middle of the night: Get more sleep.
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