Late Night Snacks on Your Mind? It Might Be Because You Skipped Zzz’s!

Supermarkets are filled to the brim with sugary snacks that can wreak havoc on our health and waistlines. If you’ve ever found yourself struggling to resist these delectable delights, take note because researchers have discovered a specific bedtime habit that can drain your willpower, making you more susceptible to reaching for junk food.

That bedtime habit? Going to bed too late.

When people get too little sleep, they tend to purchase more junk food, according to a study conducted in Sweden. Researcher Colin Chapman, from Uppsala University, says, “We hypothesized that sleep deprivation’s impact on hunger and decision making would make for the ‘perfect storm’ with regard to shopping and food purchasing — leaving individuals hungrier and less capable of employing self-control and higher-level decision-making processes to avoid making impulsive, calorie-driven purchases.”

The study found that sleep-deprived men purchased packaged food containing significantly more calories (9%) and in greater quantities (18%) than they did after having a good night’s sleep. So, what’s the connection between sleep deprivation and junk food cravings?

The Science Behind It: Hormones and Decision-Making

Lack of sleep can have an enormous impact on two key hormones in the body, ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is often referred to as the “hunger hormone” because it is responsible for signaling hunger, while leptin is responsible for telling the brain that you’ve had enough to eat. When you don’t get enough sleep, ghrelin levels increase, and leptin levels decrease, which can lead to feelings of hunger and cravings for high-calorie, sugary treats.

Additionally, sleep deprivation can disrupt your brain’s decision-making processes, making it difficult to resist unhealthy choices. Research has shown that insufficient sleep impairs the frontal lobe of the brain, which is responsible for complex decision-making and self-control.

As such, you may find yourself reaching for that bag of chips or chocolate bar even if you know it’s a bad choice, all because your sleep-deprived brain is not functioning as well as it should be.

How Can You Avoid This “Perfect Storm”?

With the strong link between lack of sleep and junk food cravings in mind, it’s crucial to get the recommended amount of rest to maintain proper hormonal balance, decision-making abilities, and ultimately, better control over your food cravings.

Get Enough Sleep

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults aim for seven to nine hours of sleep per night. To ensure you’re getting enough rest, establish a regular sleep schedule and create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, cool, and quiet.

Plan Your Meals and Snacks

Take a proactive approach by planning your meals and snacks ahead of time. Not only will this give you a roadmap for healthier eating, but it will also help minimize impulsive, poor food choices. Fill your kitchen with nutrient-dense, whole foods, and consider packing healthy snacks with you when you’re on-the-go.

Eat a Balanced Breakfast

Starting your day with a well-balanced breakfast can set the tone for healthier choices throughout the day. Aim for a mix of lean protein, healthy fats, fiber, and complex carbohydrates to help you stay full and maintain balanced blood sugar levels.

Stay Hydrated

Dehydration can sometimes masquerade as hunger, so it’s essential to drink enough water throughout the day. A general guideline is to aim for at least eight cups of water daily, but your specific needs may vary based on your body weight, physical activity, and climate.

Find Alternative Stress Relief Techniques

If you’re prone to emotional eating, develop and practice healthier coping mechanisms for managing stress. This may include physical exercise, deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, or connecting with a support network.

Don’t Shop on an Empty Stomach

Numerous studies have shown that shopping for groceries while hungry can lead to buying more unhealthy food items. To avoid this pitfall, avoid heading to the supermarket on an empty stomach. Make sure you’ve eaten a nutritiously fulfilling meal or snack beforehand to keep your hunger at bay and your willpower strong.

Remember, if you want to resist the temptation of junk food, prioritize your sleep. Rest is essential not only for your physical well-being but also for making healthy food choices. So, get some shut-eye, and wake up ready to conquer the day with clear-headed decisions and a healthier approach to your eating habits.