The Sleep-Wake Controversy for Health

Within a 24-hour day cycle, it is recommended that we use 1/3 of it for sleeping. Many people have compromised sleep to increase work productivity and some of us may even go as far to say that sleep is overrated. During our sleep, all voluntary muscles are relaxed and we go into an anabolic state, the state of building muscle, enhance nerves, and the immune system. Some of us can relate to these experiences, whether it would be muscles not growing efficiently from working out due to lack of sleep, memorizing a speech or information for a test becomes harder as the night progresses, or even losing sleep to meet a deadline resulting in getting sick immediately after completing a project. This is all due to sleep deprivation; therefore, we should never take sleep for granted. Just like setting a schedule for certain activities, planning a sleeping agenda is as essential to planning the rest of your productive day.

We have seen in the past decade with sleep studies using MRI to see the brain responding to sweet, salty, and fatty food. We have investigated how neurons shrink during sleep to allow metabolic wastes, such as amyloid and tau-protein that contribute to Alzheimer’s disease, to be released and cleared from the cerebral spinal fluid. A recent study conducted by Hanlon et al., investigated how sleep deprivation leads to circulating endocannabinoid in our blood, which results in the indulgence of poor choices of food.

The word endocannabinoid was derived from two words, endocrine and cannabinoid. Endocrine refers to hormones, while cannabinoid is derived from the molecule found in marijuana or Cannibis. Due to the psychoactive effects of Cannibis and the influence it has on hunger based on the receptors that the constituent of Cannibis, cannabinoids, can bind to in our body, we call them cannabinoid. The effects of cannabinoids have been reported to induce “munchies”, which led to a false sense of hunger. 

This study compared 4 nights of 8.5 hours of sleep to 4 nights of 4.5 hours of sleep in healthy participants. Blood samples were then taken to measure for an endocannabinoid called 2-araichidonoglycerol (2-AG). The sleep-restricted event led to a higher 2-AG concentration in their blood than the 8.5 hours of sleep. In the sleep-deprived state, participants had more cravings and pleasure in palatable snacks that were salty, sweet, and fatty. The study concluded that sleep deprived state may contribute to obesity.

Beyond our immune system, brain function, and other physiological effects of sleep-deprivation, having a healthy sleep also influences the type of things we eat and the quantity of food we eat. I definitely do crave fast food during these moments of little sleep. What are your opinions on this? You may comment below.


Hanlon EC, Tasali E, Leproult R, Stuhr KL, Doncheck E, de Wit H, Hillard CJ, Van Cauter E. Sleep Restriction Enhances the Daily Rhythm of Circulating Levels of Endocannabinoid 2-Arachidonoylglycerol. Sleep. 2016 Mar 1;39(3):653-64. doi: 10.5665/sleep.5546. PubMed PMID: 26612385; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4763355

Click here to see a handout I received regarding my sleep hygiene.

Try checking out Sleep Factors on Amazon.




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