More Sleep Means Fewer Junk Food Cravings—Here’s Why

More Sleep Means Fewer Junk Food Cravings—Here’s Why

If you’re trying to conquer your junk food cravings, a little extra time in the sack could make a tremendous difference. In fact, a University of Chicago study showed that not getting enough sleep could increase cravings for junk food, specifically foods like cookies and bread, by 45 percent.

Don’t take the importance of sleep for granted. You may think sleeping less will give you more time to get things done, but in reality, you’re only hurting yourself and making your habits worse. Check out these four reasons more sleep means fewer cravings.

It Helps Control Your Appetite
Sleep helps regulate our hormones. Just a few nights without sleep can increase the level of ghrelin—the hormone responsible for triggering our appetite. In fact, the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study showed that participants who slept 5 hours had 14.9 percent higher ghrelin than those individuals who slept 8 hours. A lack of sleep not only explains the differences in those hormone levels but also sheds light on the increase in Body Mass Index (BMI) and obesity for individuals that don’t get adequate sleep. (Try these smart alternatives to junk food)

It Helps Signal Satiety
Hormones affect our appetite–they help regulate when we feel full or satisfied. Just a few nights without sleep can drop the level of leptin—the hormone responsible for signaling satiety. Study participants who slept 5 hours had 15.5 percent lower leptin than those individuals who slept for 8 hours. Lack of sleep can make it more difficult for us to sense when we’re full—causing us to consume more calories than we need.

It Aids Your Judgment
It’s probably no surprise (and has been well documented) that a lack of sleep can decrease our memory, cause us to feel foggy, increase our potential for accidents, increase the risk for disease and even diminish our sex drive. It can also impair judgment when it comes to making healthy choices.  When we’re tired, we are more likely to grab whatever is convenient (think office vending machine, break room donuts or that caramel latte) rather than something that is good for us. (Don’t get stuck with a junk food hangover)

It Cuts Out Snacking
A recent study published in the journal Sleep showed that a lack of sleep caused people to overeat on sweet and salty high-fat junk food. The study, which took place at the University of Chicago’s Clinical Research Center had participants take part in two four-day sessions. The first had participants spend 8.5 hours in bed (with an average sleep time of 7.5 hours) each night. The second round had the same subjects spend just 4.5 hours in bed (an average sleep time of 4.2 hours) each night. Although the participants received the same meals at the same time during both stays, they consumed more than 300 additional calories when sleep deprived. The extra calories mainly came from snacking on high-fat junk foods. (See: 10 Whole Foods That Boost Your Energy and Help You Lose Weight)

Try these simple tips to help you get a better night’s sleep:

  • Go to bed 10 to 15 minutes earlier each night until you’re getting the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep. Not only will you have more energy throughout the day with fewer cravings, but you’ll also be more productive.
  • Stop eating two hours before you hit the hay. Going to bed on a full stomach is not only uncomfortable, but it can interfere with a good night’s sleep. For many of us, late night snacking can get out of control, and the calories can add up.
  • Have a bedtime ritual. Take a hot bath, drink a cup of herbal tea or practice 10 minutes of meditation. Do what works best for you. A normal regular bedtime ritual can help you nod off quicker and sleep more soundly.
  • We hear it all the time, but put that smartphone away when you’re about to sleep. The light emitted from electronic devices can disrupt your sleep.  In fact, the National Sleep Foundation says that nighttime, and the reduction of light that used to come along with it, used to cue our brains to “wind down” for sleep. Today’s constant use of electronics interferes with this natural process.
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