Midterms, assignment submissions, finals – yes we’ve all had long, stressful, late-nights. It’s not an unusual thing to munch on high calorie snacks when you study. Most of us have the idea that we burn calories while studying or when it comes to me, munching on junk is a bad habit of mine if I stay up at night.
But have you ever wondered why you suddenly crave for chocolates, cookies or ben & jerry’s in the middle of the night?
The reasons behind late night snacking are multifactorial. I will be describing one of the main factors for late night snack cravings.
According to the study published in the journal Obesity, the researchers were able to find that our bodies have an internal circadian system which regulates hunger and cravings.
Wondering what a circadian system is? The internal circadian system is like a clock inside your body. It tells your body when to sleep, wake up, rise and regulates many other physiological processes. Environmental factors such as weather and temperature affect our circadian system.
If the circadian rhythm is disturbed, your sleeping and eating patterns go awry.
The circadian system causes an evening peak in appetite that promotes high calorie intakes. Because of this internal circadian regulation of our appetite, you’re most likely to skip breakfast in favour of a heavy or evening meal.
This was kind of a good thing for ancestors, because it helped them to store energy to survive periods of food scarcity. However, high calorie food like the late night snacks you’ve been munching on is not doing any good to your body.
This will eventually result in you gaining weight, if you do not exercise enough to burn them all off. Adverse effects of interruption of the circadian system can result in obesity and cardiovascular diseases.
So next time you’re planning to stay up the whole night, try to hold on to your cravings and make some healthy choices.
Scheer, FAJL, Morris, CJ and Shea, SA. 2013, “The Internal Circadian Clock Increases Hunger and Appetite in the Evening Independent of Food Intake and Other Behaviors” Obesity, 21(3): 421-423 accessed 10 April 2016 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3655529/
“Circadian Rhythm” 2016. Psychology Today, accessed on 10 April 2016 https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/circadian-rhythm
“How to stop late night cravings” 2013. Isagenix, accessed on 10 April 2016 http://www.isagenixhealth.net/how-to-stop-late-night-cravings/