Tired and hungry? Here’s why…

Tired and hungry? Here’s why…

Author Jessicarr Moorehouse

Sleep disturbance is common and many individuals experience either inadequate duration or quality of sleep. For some, this is associated with increased appetite, food cravings and consumption of high calorie foods.

Why is this? Sleep disturbance causes the body to switch to an orexigenic state, which correlates with higher levels of arousal or wakefulness. In this state there are important hormonal and neurological changes that may have implications for weight gain and the development of type 2 diabetes.

As early as 2003 the hormones leptin and ghrelin, which suppress and promote appetite respectively, were both understood to be affected by sleep disturbance1. More recent research however, has suggested that endocannabinoids, which promote hedonic eating (eating for pleasure) are more significant2. These hormonal changes, coupled with the increased activity in reward and pleasure brain pathways3 are thought to increase food intake in people with disturbed sleep, creating a positive energy balance.


1 Mullington JM, Chan JL, Van Dongen HP, Szuba MP, Samaras J, Price NJ, et al. Sleep loss reduces diurnal rhythm amplitude of leptin in healthy men. J Neuroendocrinol. 2003;15(9):851-4

2. Jager G, Witkamp RF. The endocannabinoid system and appetite: relevance for food reward. Nutr Res Rev. 2014;27(1):172-85

3 Greer SM, Goldstein AN, Walker MP. The impact of sleep deprivation on food desire in the human brain. Nat Commun. 2013;4:2259.