Skimping on Sleep May Lead to “The Munchies”

I’m sure many of you are familiar with a common trigger of the munchies (even though it’s legal for recreational use in just four states and the District of Columbia). But a recent study from the University of Chicago suggests another one that’s not only totally legal but seriously widespread: a lack of sleep. That’s right, skimping on shut-eye can give you a major case of “the munchies,” especially during that late-afternoon slump.   

The small study published in the journal Sleep suggests that sleep-deprivation activates brain chemicals called endocannabinoids, part of the same reward system that’s responsible for the marijuana “munchies.”

When people who spent eight nights in a controlled sleep lab failed to log enough Zzz’s, they consumed about 300 more calories per day than those who got a full night’s sleep. They also felt hungrier and had bigger appetites, which made them less able to resist a buffet of “guilty pleasure” snacks, like chips, cookies, and candy.

Next time an afternoon junk food craving hits, do two things: check out some of my simple swaps in From Junk Food to Joy Food (like my Kale Chips or my Mini Chocolate Cupcakes) to turn your favorite guilty pleasures into guilt-free goodies so you can indulge without blowing your calorie budget. And then, plan to hit the sack a little earlier that night!

Learn how to get better better sleep by choosing the right bites.