Food Cravings Hurting Your Diet? Sleep Might Be the Answer

Hey all.  Yesterday I was so sick and couldn’t make my blog post.  Today, I thought I drop a guest blog post on you about sleep and how it affects your diet. I hope you find the information helpful because I sure did.  I’ve noticed a pattern in my sleeping and if you follow me on the socials you know my sleep isn’t so great on the weekends.  You know why?  That’s when I Netflix and chill HARD.  This really got me thinking about how sleep and diet are connected.  It’s always been one of my biggest weight loss tips: get enough sleep.  Here’s a little bit more insight on the subject.

I’ll admit it right now – I have a hard time sleeping. After my fourth and final pregnancy, I found myself struggling to lose the baby weight. I finally joined an eight-week health challenge to see if I could get rid myself of the final 15 pounds. Every day I had to monitor different health goals to earn points.

When I saw one of the major point categories – seven full hours of sleep – I knew I was in trouble. Granted, at the time, I had a six-month-old baby and night waking was still common. At that point in my life, I didn’t understand what sleep had to do with a healthy diet or exercise. But, I was soon to find out.

Sleep might be the answer

I learned that sleep acts as a stabilizer for different body systems. Without it, the body starts to change hormone levels as a survival technique. Getting less than seven hours of sleep causes the body to release more of the hunger hormone ghrelin. I always suspected that I felt hungrier when I was tired, and as it turns out I was right.

I also learned that sleep deprivation reduces the amount of leptin released in the body. Leptin, a satiety hormone, signals the brain that is time to stop eating. Without sleep, my hormones thought I needed extra calories to power my wakefulness, but in reality, I didn’t. Instead, I was left fighting my own hunger.

However, lack of sleep does so much more than make you feel hungry. It also influences the kind of food you eat and crave. When the brain is tired, sugar snack foods that are full of calories cause more stimulation than normal to the brain’s reward center. Suddenly, I understood why it was so much harder to bypass the cookies and cakes when I was running on three or four hours of sleep.

I soon learned about healthy sleep habits.

The phrase sleep hygiene didn’t enter my vocabulary for quite some time, even though I quickly learned during my eight-week health challenge the importance of getting enough sleep. Sleep hygiene includes all the habits and behaviors that contribute to sleep quality.

Some behaviors like binge-watching Netflix for hours after your kids go to bed (or trying to!) can hurt your sleep in more ways than one. Not only are you not getting the sleep you need, but the bright light is given off by televisions, smartphones, and laptops can suppress sleep hormones. The brain needs a good two to three hours of screen-free time to maintain hormone levels.

Good sleep hygiene includes things like going to bed at the same time every night, waking up at the same time every morning, and developing a relaxing bedtime routine. Keeping a consistent schedule can be tough, but with effort, I found I can stay on track most of the time. Although I’m not too hard on myself when I’m up late taking care of a little one who needs me.

As moms, we face some unique sleep challenges too. Childbirth and taking care of children can be hard on the body. The weight of my diaper bag alone has given me back problems before. And, nighttime discomfort can contribute to sleep problems. Weighted blankets, therapeutic pillows, and mattress toppers can help align the spine and get rid of some of those nighttime mom aches.

I’ve learned my lesson. If I want to eat healthy and stay away from sugar, I have to sleep. I continue to focus on healthy sleep habits to create a lifestyle that gives me the energy for a busy life as a mom.

How many hours of sleep do you get at night?

About the Author: 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.