You might not realize that sleeping well improves more than just your energy and mood. A recent study shows that people who don’t sleep well eat more sugar, and more food in general.
We’re all familiar with the distracted, exhausted, and cranky days that follow nights of bad sleep. Feeling tired and out of it is the most noticeable consequence of not sleeping well, but there’s more going on below the surface. Low sleep quality at night can spell bad eating habits throughout the day.
Researchers asked 495 women to rate their sleep using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), which is a validated questionnaire that assesses your sleep quality over the past month. Participants also gave a detailed report of their food intake during that time, including types of foods and amounts. They found a strong correlation between low sleep quality and increased calorie intake.
Read the comprehensive guide to a great night’s sleep.
Why do you turn to food to make up for lost time in dreamland? There are several reasons, but the two big ones spell disaster for your diet:
- Sleep debt makes your body seek energy. When you’re tired, and you’re in a situation where you can’t sneak off for a catnap, the fastest way to get a quick hit of energy is to reach for sugar and carbs.
- Poor sleep weakens your self-control, impulsiveness and decision making. It’s easier to talk yourself away from the snack drawer when you’re well rested than it is when you’re sleep deprived.
When your body starts asking for energy, and fatigue chips away at your ability to make good decisions, it’s a perfect storm for overindulgence.
Metabolic effects of sleep deprivation.
Not sleeping enough affects not only your food choices and how much you eat, but also how your body uses the calories you take in. Here’s what the science says:
- Short sleep duration increases your risk of obesity and diabetes
- Lack of sleep leads to excess inflammation and increases your risk of cardiovascular disease
- Sleep has a meaningful influence on childhood obesity
- Short sleep can cause adolescents to gain weight
- Sleep debt may affect your hormone production, which can disrupt your energy metabolism and cause your weight to fluctuate
- Lack of sleep alters the way you burn sugar for energy, while increasing your appetite at the same time.
How to sleep better as part of a weight loss strategy.
If you’re carrying around extra weight that you’d like to lose, there’s a good chance you’ve already evaluated your eating habits and perhaps added workouts to your regimen. Next up, address your sleep.
Don’t think of sleep as one more way you have to be disciplined to lose weight. Think of it as removing some of the difficulty associated with losing weight. If you sleep better, you’ll have more energy for your workouts, which make them easier to do. You’ll also find that it’s easier to maintain healthy eating habits because you’ll likely experience fewer cravings. Sleeping enough makes everything easeir.
Determine how long and how well you are sleeping.
You may not have an accurate sense of how long or how well you’re sleeping until you examine it more closely. To take stock of your sleep, you can take the PSQI questionnaire to assess your general habits over the last month, and also track your sleep from night to night. This article will show you how to take a nightly snapshot of your sleep without expensive wearables.
Implement sleep strategies.
Going to bed earlier doesn’t always translate to getting better, more refreshing sleep. What works for one person may not work for someone else. Here is one of the most comprehensive guides to sleep you’ll find anywhere. Read through it and try some of the strategies to see what works for you.
Rough nights happen every now and again. If you had a bad night’s sleep, you might find yourself consumed by sugar cravings. Don’t sweat it - snack attacks happen to the best of us. Keep a stash of monk fruit sweetened chocolate bark, brownie mix, or maple-flavored syrup on hand for those times when you just have to give in.