How sleep affects eating habits

Eating healthy is difficult enough at the best of times. When you haven’t gotten enough sleep, that becomes even more difficult for a lot of reasons. Being sleep deprived makes it harder to make good choices when it comes to your diet, harder to do the exercises that keep you healthy, and harder for your body to process the food that you’re eating.

Food Choices

Making good food choices is hard, especially when you are sleep deprived. People who are sleep deprived are:

  • Less likely to make food choices based on their health and weight needs, according to a study in Psychology and Health Journal.

  • More likely to snack on higher-carb and higher fat snacks than people who are not, according to a study in SLEEP Journal. This effect is similar to that of “the munchies” that people who are high on marijuana experience.

  • More likely to need caffeine in the afternoon, which will disrupt their sleep schedule later on during the day.

More Sleep = Better Metabolism

The 2017 UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey found that those who sleep for longer periods of time are more likely to have a lower BMI and better metabolic profiles, as well as slimmer waists. They are also less likely to be at risk for type 2 diabetes, due to their glucose control.

How Do I Change This?

Update Your Sleep Space

When was the last time you bought a new pillow? If you find yourself waking up with shoulder or neck pain regularly, that might be the cause. Pillows should be replaced between every 3 and 36 months, depending on the type of pillow. If you can’t remember the last time you replaced yours, give that a try.

If you find yourself struggling with anxiety around bedtime, it might be worth trying a weighted blanket. These blankets are designed to emotionally ground you and keep you focused on the moment. This could help you get significantly better sleep in the long run.

Avoid Late Night Meals & Alcohol

Our bodies struggle to digest food overnight, and when they do, it can cause sleep disruptions. To avoid this, keep your meals at least three or four hours before bed. If you have a glass of wine with dinner, you’ll be okay, but if you drink any more than that, it can force you to wake up during the night to use the restroom.

Avoid Shopping While Hungry

If you shop while hungry, you are more likely to buy foods that are not great for you. You’re also likely to buy a lot more food, which means there’s more food that you need to eat in the house. To avoid this, make yourself a shopping list and do not allow yourself to deviate from it. You can also try using a grocery pickup or delivery service to avoid impulse buys that will cause you to stray from your diet.

If you find yourself struggling to sleep regularly, try talking to your doctor to see what the underlying cause might be.

Alicia Sanchez is a researcher for the sleep science hub with a specialty in health and wellness. A Nashville native, Alicia finds the sound of summer storms so soothing that she still sleeps with recorded rain on her white noise machine.