A well-balanced diet is vital to a healthy lifestyle. However, to consistently make good food choices you have to sleep. Sleep is easy to take for granted because most people don’t think about it until they’re staring the ceiling late in the night. But sleep, or lack thereof, affects many aspects of your health, including your appetite and eating habits.
Sleep for Appetite Control
When your stomach starts to get empty, it sends signals to the brain that cause the release of ghrelin, a hunger hormone. As you eat and get full, the brain releases leptin, a satiety hormone. To keep your appetite in check, you have to respond appropriately to these signals and lack of sleep makes that hard to do.
Sleep deprivation causes the body to increase ghrelin and decrease leptin. Consequently, you’re left hungrier than you would normally be. Because of lower leptin levels, you’re more likely to overeat because you don’t recognize the “full” signal until you’ve consumed too many calories.
The changes don’t stop there.
Sleep to Decrease Cravings
Food cravings can be intense on the best of days. Lack of sleep can not only intensify cravings but change them. Sleep deprivation activates the endocannabinoid (eCB) system, which influences hunger, food intake, and the reward center of the brain.
Once active, it’s harder to resist candy, chips, and other high-fat, sugary foods because the eCB system causes the brain to experience a “runner’s high” from these unhealthy foods. Sleep-deprived people tend to choose snacks with 50 percent more calories and twice the fat. These foods just feel better when you’re tired.
These changes put people who suffer from sleep deprivation at higher risk for weight gain and obesity. Over time, that also increases the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular problems, and high blood pressure.
However, there are lots of things you can do to overcome sleep problems.
How to Sleep More
Daily habits and behaviors, in many ways, determine the quality of your sleep. A consistent effort towards positive changes can help you get the sleep you need. You can try:
- Creating a Supportive Sleep Environment: The bedroom shouldn’t be a multipurpose space like a home office or gym. Your bedroom needs to be your sacred sleep space where distractions are left outside the door. That means leaving work outside and blocking out as much light and sound as possible. Everything about your bed from the mattress to the sheets should be comfortable.
- Establishing a Sleep Schedule: All that’s needed for a sleep schedule is a consistent bedtime and wake up time. If you can do these two things, your body can better respond to sleep hormones.
- Ask Your Partner About Your Sleep Patterns: Sometimes it’s hard to recognize our own sleep patterns. If snoring or teeth grinding are common complaints, you may have a sleep disorder or other condition that interferes with your sleep quality. Consult a physician to see if a mouthguard, therapeutic pillow, and mattress topper might provide a simple solution.
- Eating Smart: Late-night snacks derail many healthy eating plans. However, if you need a late-night snack, try foods that help in the production of sleep hormones like yogurt, cheese, almonds, or walnuts. They give your body a boost of nutrients that can help you rest easier.
Eating healthy should start with good sleep. It will help you stay focused on your goals and achieve the lifestyle you want.