Everyone has experienced a sleepless night or two and the struggle of staying awake on only a few hours of sleep. But, lack of sleep does more than make you feel drowsy. It fundamentally changes your appetite and metabolism. On average, adults need seven to nine hours of sleep for the body to be fully rested. Any time you get less sleep than that, you open the door for unhealthy food cravings that can get in the way of a well-balanced diet.
LACK OF SLEEP? PASS THE SUGAR PLEASE
When you’re sleep deprived, your body releases more of the hunger hormone ghrelin. At the same time, your levels of leptin, a satiety hormone, go down. Though you may not need the extra calories, your body craves food more and feels hungrier when you’re tired. Consequently, you’re more likely to overeat.
The kind of food you crave changes too. A study published in the journal SLEEP explored what happened to the appetite and food choices of young, healthy participants when they were sleep deprived. The results showed that sleep deprivation led to intense cravings for sugar and other unhealthy foods in the afternoon and early evening.
Though participants were offered both healthy and unhealthy snacks, those who were sleep deprived were far more likely to choose the unhealthy foods. Researchers found that eating these unhealthy foods when sleep deprived increased the signal to the reward center of the brain. Participants got a bigger “hit” from sugar and fat in a way that’s similar to what happens to the brain during marijuana use. Consequently, your sleep deprived case of the munchies is similar to that experienced when taking marijuana.
No wonder it’s hard to maintain a healthy diet if you’re not getting enough sleep. But, there’s hope.
CREATE HEALTHY SLEEP HABITS TO MAKE BETTER FOOD CHOICES
The good news – your appetite regulates after just one night of adequate sleep. That makes getting a full seven hours vital to your health. By improving your sleep-related habits, you can stabilize your appetite and improve your food choices. For better sleep and healthier eating try:
- Keeping a Consistent Sleep-Wake Schedule: Your body runs on regular 24-hour cycles so keeping a consistent sleep-wake schedule helps the brain know when to release sleep hormones. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day even on weekends. When traveling, try to maintain a consistent schedule as much as possible. That may mean carrying a travel pillow and blanket with you to get some extra sleep at odd times.
- Following a Regular Meal Schedule: When you eat also plays an important role in signaling the release of sleep hormones. Try to eat your meals at the same time each day to regulate your sleep schedule.
- A Bedtime Routine: A bedtime routine helps calm both mind and body before bed. Relaxing activities like reading a book, meditation, or a warm bath can relieve tension and stress for a better night’s rest.
- Avoiding Screens and Bright Light Before Bed: Many high-efficiency light bulbs and electronic devices give off a bright blue light that suppresses the release of sleep hormones. Limiting your exposure in the evening can help keep your sleep schedule on target. Some devices have a low light setting while others you’ll need to turn off two to three hours before bed to prevent sleep disruptions.
Sleep is essential to appetite control. As you make sleep a priority, you’re taking a step towards better overall health.
This was written by a guest blogger from Tuck.com. For more information on how to improve your sleep and all other things sleep related check out Tuck.com.