Have you ever noticed that when you’re sleep deprived you crave foods that will give you a quick energy boost… like sugar? There’s a good reason for that.
Lack of sleep has a direct link to stress, depression, overeating, and weight gain. There are two hormones in your body that regulate normal feelings of hunger and fullness. Ghrelin stimulates appetite, while leptin signals your brain when you are full.
However, when you do not get adequate sleep, your hunger/fullness hormones are affected. Ghrelin levels go up, stimulating your appetite so you want more food than normal. Your leptin levels simultaneously go down, which causes you to desire more food than you may actually need, not feeling satisfied.
So, the more sleep you miss out on, the more food your body will crave. This makes it harder to fight food cravings. On top of this, it can increase fatigue, anxiety and stress levels, leading to yet more emotional eating and mood swings.
And because sugar gives a quick burst of energy, one often craves something with a lot of sugar or starch (which will break down into sugar). Unfortunately the sugar will spike your blood sugar, but what goes up must come down, and your blood sugar will subsequently dip and you will feel tired. It would be much better to choose high-fiber carbohydrates that will give longer lasting energy with a more gradual blood sugar rise and fall, rather than sugary choices. Oatmeal and berries or an apple and almond butter would be better choices that a doughnut or pancakes for breakfast.
To control your appetite and reduce food cravings, try to get plenty of rest—about eight hours of quality sleep every night. Try avoiding high-fat, heavy meals at night, caffeine after noon, and late evening exercise. Remember, when you sleep your body rejuvenates and heals itself—if you’re sleep deprived your whole body will pay the price and your hormones will not be in perfect balance. Practice good sleep hygiene: make your bedroom sanctuary space—for sleep only; shut out all lights to promote melatonin production; try drinking a chamomile tea and spray a lavender mist before bed; or even take a hot bath to help regulate body temperature.