How we sleep can have a significant impact on how we eat. Inadequate sleep can impact hunger hormones and increase overeating throughout the day 1. It can also impact the types of foods you choose and how satisfied you feel after eating. 

Read on to understand more about how sleep can impact hunger and learn how to improve your sleep habits for better health.

How sleep impacts hunger

Let’s start with the basics: Hunger Hormones 101. The two main hunger hormones are leptin, which helps us feel full and satisfied, and ghrelin, which induces feelings of hunger 2. These two hormones work together to regular appetite, signaling that it’s time to eat and when to stop. 

Sleep plays an important role in regulating leptin and ghrelin. Not getting enough sleep has been found to trigger increased levels of ghrelin and decreased levels of leptin 2. This can cause increased feelings of hunger and decreased feelings of fullness throughout the day. If you’ve ever had one of those days where you “can’t stop eating”, it may be useful to reflect on your sleeping patterns the night before! 

How sleep impacts food choices

Lack of sleep doesn’t just impact how hungry we feel, it also impacts the types of food we are drawn to. Studies have shown that individuals who are sleep-deprived are more likely to choose energy-dense foods that are higher in carbohydrates (think: your fav snack foods like cookies and chips)3. This isn’t always a bad thing, but if you are noticing a pattern of reaching for a chocolate bar during your mid-afternoon crash, it may be time to start paying attention to your sleep!

It’s not uncommon for busy women to balance multiple obligations (career, family, school, social life, relationships, etc). Just think of how much more you could get done in a day if you didn’t need to sleep! However, consistently poor sleeping patterns may contribute to consistent overeating that can interfere with your health goals. 

If you think your sleep could be impacting your eating patterns, try some of the following tips for improving your sleep. 

Tips for improving your sleep

  • Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night.4 
  • Create a consistent sleep routine. Try to go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends! 
  • Create a supportive sleep space. Find your perfect sleep temperature, invest in quality sheets, spritz a calming scent, and put on your sleep mask. The more inviting your bed is, the more likely you are to get a great sleep! 
  • Monitor your caffeine intake. Have you ever lied awake, staring at the ceiling, regretting that late afternoon coffee? Try to consume your tea and coffee before noon and limit caffeine in the afternoon and evenings to avoid the late-night brain buzz. 
  • Put your screens away! Banish phones and TV from the bedroom to help support your natural circadian rhythm. 

The bottom line

Remember, both sleep and nutrition are extremely complex and impacted by many factors. If you are interested in learning more, check out this post about how to overcome overeating with gentle nutrition.