Could a Single Molecule Make You Tired, Hungry, Lazy and Fat?

Scientists discover how a neuropeptide affects appetite and sleep.

Have you ever experienced a restless night followed by a day of binge eating? Does a hungry stomach keep you awake, but a full one lulls you to sleep? Scientists have discovered a connection between hunger and sleep patterns based on the body’s metabolism and new research may narrow the cause down to a specific molecule. Experiments performed on fruit flies have shown the neuropeptide sNPF directly links hunger to drowsiness.

How Slumber Affects Hunger

The quality and amount of sleep you get each night may stimulate a metaphorical dance between certain appetite related hormones in your system. When the molecule sNPF joins in the festivities, the amount of food you eat can either cause a figurative food coma or rocket you to the land of insomnia. Added to the mix is a fluctuation in metabolism that may cause you to gain or lose weight.

Leptin is a hormone released by fat cells in the body, and it signals a feeling of satiety to the brain. As a result, this hormone suppresses the appetite. Ghrelin, a compound found in the gastrointestinal tract, increases the appetite. Whenever you deprive yourself of sleep, leptin levels in your system decrease and ghrelin amounts increase. This unnatural imbalance can lead to excessive overeating.

Loss of sleep doesn’t simply propel you into cranky zombie mode; it destroys your brain’s ability to accurately analyze your hunger levels. Leptin and ghrelin are meant to work together in order to balance feelings of fullness and hunger, but a hectic lifestyle and the resulting sleep schedules often rewrite nature’s story. This is why the recent discoveries regarding sNPF are critical to the world of weight control.

How sNPF Influences Sleeping and Eating Patterns

appetite and sleep

The neuropeptide sNPF has been known to control food intake and regulate metabolism, but current research has shown it’s also an essential factor in promoting good sleep patterns. In the lab tests, researchers activated the molecule in fruit flies. The subjects fell asleep almost instantly, and when they woke up, they remained awake long enough to eat. Once they were satisfied, they fell back to sleep.

The fruit flies fell into slumber for several days before waking up to eat again. They even dozed right on the food sources, which meant they could wake up, eat and fall asleep without putting forth much effort. Although this may be absurdly appealing to many people, it could also be a dangerous catalyst for unhealthy sleep-and-eat schedules. The upside to this research is that the fruit flies returned to normal activities when the sNPF functions were stabilized.

This single molecule acts as nature’s matchmaker by fusing sleep behaviors with food consumption activities. Through these types of tests, scientists can determine which cells work with the neuropeptide to link appetite and slumber. If you can manage to eat an entire bag of chips in between catching your late night winks, it may be due to these connections. This may be the breakthrough midnight ice cream devourers have been waiting for.

Get plenty of sleep and you may find that your appetite responds by calming. Try getting more sleep and see if it doesn’t reduce your daytime appetite!

Sources:

http://www.brandeis.edu/now/2013/october/drosophila.html

http://wonderofscience.com.au/index.php/eat-sleep-repeat/

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=sleep-deprivation-tied-to