Have you ever noticed that you feel hungrier or have uncontrollable cravings for certain foods after a poor night’s sleep? It’s not just your imagination—there’s a link between sleep and hunger.
Studies show that even a single night of sleep deprivation changes the levels of our hunger and appetite hormones, leading to increased hunger. It also affects the way your brain’s motivation centers respond to the sight (or even the thought) of food.
Essentially, when you are under-rested, both your body and brain send strong signals that drive you to the drive-through. Those extra calories can easily lead to weight gain, which would seem to explain the well-documented connection between undersleeping and being overweight. Undersleeping is also associated with increased risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
There is some good news here. Researchers from University of Cape Town in South Africa recently analyzed results from seven studies that used various methods to increase sleep duration. They found that when people got more sleep, they were less hungry during the day. Even better, they experienced reduced desire for sweet and salty foods.
Perhaps this is the motivation you need to finally get serious about improving your sleep habits. But how?
The first step involves a set of practices collectively referred to as “sleep hygiene.” If that doesn’t help, there are some more intensive approaches you can try. But let’s start with the basics.