Why You Make Bad Decisions About Food When You’re Tired
When you’re sleep deprived, you’re not at the top of your game. If you’ve ever succumbed to the allure of a drive thru late at night, you know that when you’re tired, your willpower suffers. This can lead to poor food choices.
Sleep and Self Control
Sleep deprivation can lead to poor nutrition choices. When you’re sleep deprived, you’re more likely to turn to junk food, eating high carb snacks and engaging in more late night snacking than if you’ve had sufficient sleep. You’re more likely to eat bigger portions and have cravings for fat rich foods.
When you get five hours of sleep or less each night, you’re more likely to consume more calories, less water, and more carbohydrates. In fact, some research has shown that the cravings associated with sleep deprivation are similar to those that occur with marijuana use.
Sleep deprivation also reduces your energy and increases fatigue. That means you’ll be less likely to exercise and work off the extra calories. Bad food decisions and a lack of exercise can make it difficult to reach or maintain a healthy weight.
Sleep and Hormones
Sleep deprivation has an effect on hormones that tell your brain when you’re hungry or full. That’s why when you stay up late at night, you feel hungrier, have more cravings, and may overeat.
Ghrelin, the hunger hormone, tells your brain when it’s hungry and you should eat. When you’re sleep deprived, ghrelin production increases, telling your brain that it’s hungrier more often. Leptin, the satiety hormone, tells your brain when it’s full. When you’re sleep deprived, your brain thinks you’re not full, so you are less able to recognize when it’s time to stop eating.
Sleep deprivation also has a negative effect on your ability to metabolize carbohydrates. You will experience higher blood sugar levels that can lead to increased insulin and cortisol production. Cortisol conserves energy as fat reserves to use as fuel, and insulin regulates your ability to process food into energy. Without these working as they should, your body stores more fat.
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
Adequate sleep is needed to support healthy eating habits and maintain a healthy weight. The average adult needs seven to seven and a half hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep. This starts with good sleep habits, including:
- Planning ahead. Know how much sleep you need and plan ahead so that you can give yourself the time you need to rest. Consider what time you need to wake up in the morning and make sure you’re going to bed early enough that you’ll have enough time to sleep before it’s time to wake up again.
- Practicing good sleep hygiene. Develop or maintain a regular sleep routine, going to sleep and waking up around the same time each night. Repeat the same routine every night before you go to bed, such as brushing your teeth and reading a book before you go to sleep.
- Create a healthy sleep environment. Choose comfortable bedding and keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet. You should avoid using screens late at night, and especially not in your bedroom.
Sara Westgreen is a researcher for the sleep science hub Tuck.com. She sleeps on a king size bed in Texas, where she defends her territory against cats all night. A mother of three, she enjoys beer, board games, and getting as much sleep as she can get her hands on.
I think we would get a long great. Thanks for the tips, Sara!
I make less than great food decisions when I’m tired, anyone else with me? If you have more tips, comment below!