I Hope you all had a fabulous 4th of July holiday or at very least are enjoying your summer! This week we have a fantastic guest post discussing why sleep deprivation can tempt us with sugar and other food cravings as well as tips to improve sleep hygiene to help minimize the risk for these cravings.
If you've ever spent a late night waiting in a drive-thru line or ended up with coffee and donuts for breakfast because you couldn't muster up the energy for something more sensible, you may understand how sleep deprivation can lead to junk food.
When you're sleep deprived, you're fatigued and not functioning at your best. That means your body may look to food to pick up the slack, and you may have less willpower to resist the urge to consume junk food that offers a quick fix.
If you're not getting enough sleep, you may be struggling to maintain a healthy diet. But you can adopt a more health-focused lifestyle by making rest a priority and incorporating it into your overall plan for improving your wellness.
Can You Resist Temptation While Sleep Deprived?
Many people struggle with self-control while short on sleep. When you don't sleep enough at night, fatigue can wear down even the strongest willpower. If you're functioning on four hours of sleep, you may feel so frazzled that you don't care what you're eating as long as it's fast and filling.
Sleep deprivation reduces your self-control, particularly when it comes to food. People who sleep for less than five hours each night are likelier to consume more carbohydrates and calories, but less water.
Sleep deprivation can lead to cravings that are poor nutritional choices. While sleep deprived, you're more likely to eat high carb snacks, snack late at night, and eat bigger portions. You'll fight more cravings for fatty and carbohydrate-rich foods.
How Sleep Deprivation Tricks Your Hunger Cues
Your body relies on hormones to regulate hunger. These hormones tell your body when you're full, and when you should eat. When you're getting enough sleep, they are well regulated and send the right cues at the right time so you can eat when you need to and stop when you're full.
But when you're sleep deprived, hunger hormones are thrown off, confusing your body and potentially leading to poor food choices. Leptin tells your brain when you're full, and it's known as the satiety hormone. Ghrelin tells your brain when you're hungry and that it's time to eat. It's known as the hunger hormone.
Sleep deprivation confuses these hormones, reducing leptin production and increasing ghrelin production. This change tricks your brain into thinking it's hungrier and less satisfied than you really are. Of course, this can lead to overeating and potentially reaching for sugary goodness.
What You Can do to Fight Sugar Cravings
Sleepless nights happen sometimes, and so do junk food binges. A night of inadequate sleep or a questionable snack here and there isn't enough to completely throw you off of a healthy lifestyle. The key is maintaining healthy habits most of the time so you can fall back on consistently good sleep and nutrition even if you slip up now and then.
Focusing on sleep as part of your healthy lifestyle can support good food choices and lead to better overall wellness.
You can maintain better sleep by:
- Making bedtime a priority
- Maintaining a consistent bedtime routine
- Testing out mattresses at stores to see if you’re sleeping on the right one for you
- Recognizing when poor food choices are a result of sleep deprivation
- Avoiding coffee at night and other foods that can interfere with sleep
- Preparing healthy, easy to grab snacks with lasting energy that you can turn to when you're tired and craving sugar
“Writer’s Bio: Mary Lee is a researcher for the sleep science hub Tuck.com. She specializes in sleep's role in mental and physical health and wellness. Mary lives in Olympia, Washington and shares her full-sized bed with a very noisy cat.”
Wishing you a week of great sleep, health, and revitalization,
–Ricci-Lee Hotz, MS, RDN
Denver’s Dancing Dietitian
A Taste of Health, LLC
“Improving Quality of life one bite at a time”