It’s been established that a shorter night’s sleep skews people’s food choices towards more fatty and sugary products.
Now, a new study conducted by Swedish researchers suggests these junk food cravings, onset from short sleeps, can be curbed through regular exercise.
What many people on weight loss plans fail to realize is sleep plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy body weight. It’s an often overlooked factor, and wrongly so. Past studies have linked chronic lack of sleep to obesity, as people tend to be less active and snack more as a result, preferring fatty or sugary treats.
This latest research comes from Uppsala University in Sweden, who say physical exercise can counteract the consequences of lack of sleep, and the associated risks of obesity.
Examining a group of participants with normal weights, and in good physical health, the Swedish research team studied the behavior and levels of endocannabinoids in the subjects. Endocannabinoids are a group of chemical substances created by the brain that activate the neurological receptors present in the human body. They’re typically elevated by short sleep, and are responsible for uncontrolled behaviour towards our favourite foods – particularly the junky variety.
The volunteers were then taken to a sleep laboratory, where they had three consecutive ‘normal’ nights of sleep (eight and a half hours), followed by three nights of just four hours of rest. Meals and exercise were consistent throughout the experiment each day, and blood samples were taken each day to keep tabs on endocannabinoid levels.
The team’s results showed a sharp hike in “2-arachidonoylglycerol” levels, which is the most abundant endocannabinoid in the brain – it climbed 80% higher after the three nights of poor sleep.
But, after a rigorous 35-minute exercise regiment, the researchers noted that the surplus of endocannabinoids was halved, and in some cases, returned to normal levels altogether.
In addition to this biological discovery, exercise goes hand-in-hand with reducing stress, which in turn helps sleep. Exercise, therefore, can be seen as a stress-relieving approach to achieve ‘neurological balance.’
The study was published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.