CNN – It's 3am and you're wide awake for the second night in a row. You get up and stumble into the kitchen to drink some warm milk. Mother swears you're sleeping.
Why do you eat a bowl of ice cream with a side of biscuits?
You're not saying, "Oh, you know what, I want some carrots," said behavioral neuroscientist Erin Hanlon, who studies the relationship between brain systems and behavior at the University of Chicago.
"They crave sweets and salty and starchy things," she added. "You want these fries, you want a cookie, you want something sweet, you know?"
What is sleep fatigue and junk food? The answer lies in the story, when we dug in the dirt for starchy tubers, looked for sweet berries and ate on fatty fish.
"From an evolutionary point of view, eating a carbohydrate-rich, high-fat meal was a big deal because you did not always have it," said Hanlon, also a science assistant professor.
"If you think of having feasts or famine, having a meal high in carbohydrates or fat, something your brain would say, 'Hey, we want that.'"
"It is Just the last bit of humanity we can eat around the clock, or foods that are high in saturated fat and high in carbohydrates, "Hanlon continued," and our brain has not developed as fast as the available ones Food. "
You may have heard of two hormones controlling our cravings for food: leptin and ghrelin.
"I always tell my patients to think about them when they write their first letter," said sleep specialist Dr. med. Raj Dasgupta, Deputy Program Director, Sleep Medicine Fellowship, Keck Medicine of USC.
"That in leptin stands for lose: It suppresses appetite and therefore contributes to weight loss," he said. "The Ghrelin in Ghrelin stands for Gain: This fast-acting hormone increases hunger and leads to weight gain." The result is an increase in hunger.
But food is food, and that does not explain why we ask for sweets instead of carrots.
To answer that, one has to look at another system of the body: the endocannabinoid system. His job is to keep our body in homeostasis or balance, and it regulates everything from sleep to appetite to inflammation to pain and more.
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Now we know that this is an ancient system that evolved eons ago. In fact, the most primitive animal with cannabinoid receptors is the sea spray that lived more than 600 million years ago.
What does this system have to do with food? Endocannabinoids bind to the same receptors as the active ingredient in marijuana, which is well known to cause "nibbles".
"We know that you can infuse endocannabinoids into certain regions of the brain of animals and feed them," he told Hanlon. "They will eat certain things, tastier things, they will choose sucrose over saccharin, although theoretically both taste the same, but sucrose contains more carbohydrates." triggers our hedonistic craving for fatty, starchy and sugary foods.
And, as with leptin and ghrelin, sleep deprivation seems to be getting worse.
In a study published in 2016, Hanlon compared the circulating levels of 2-AG, one of the most abundant endocannabinoids, in people who slept normally for four nights (more than eight hours) in people who only had 4.5 Slept for hours.
People deprived of sleep reported a greater increase in hunger and appetite and had higher afternoon concentrations of 2-AG than those who slept well. They also had a hard time controlling their craving for high-carbohydrate, high-calorie snacks.
Why? "We do not know," Hanlon said.
All of this research is so new that science still does not know how everything fits together or what can be done about it.
And that brings us to the conclusion: For the junk food junkies with lack of sleep, there will be no pill in the near future.
Instead, you must do what the doctor says to reduce your cravings in the middle of the year. Night: Get more sleep.
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