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How Does Poor Sleep Effect Food Choices?

3rd Nov, 2022


As I’m sure you already know, sleep is a vital component of the interconnected biochemical system we call the human body. You may have felt that deep struggle to get out of bed after a bad night sleep or the need for a mid-afternoon coffee to see you through to the end of the day. But what you might not realize is the effect that a bad nights’ sleep (or 3 or 4) has on what and how much you eat.

The Effect of Not Enough Sleep

Sleep has body wide effects that can be transformative in our rest overnight. However, if we don’t get enough of it, it can also have many not so beneficial effects on our biochemical functions relating to eating, like the levels of hunger hormones we produce and the areas of our brains that are more or less active. The results of this, as studies have widely shown, is that commonly, when we don’t get enough sleep we are more likely to gravitate to high calorie foods that 1, activate the areas of reward in our brains  and 2, we have less capacity to fight the internal conflict between whether to choose a healthier food (that we know we should) and resist the less healthy, usually higher calorie food that may be a less healthful choice. Additionally, when sleep deprived, appetite has been found to increase as the 2 hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin, are geared towards overeating. Overeating is even easier as lack of sleep means we are awake for longer, and this means we have a bigger window in the day to eat. 

You’ve likely felt it before, that when you finally get home from work, you’re already exhausted and the idea of cooking, moreover a healthy meal, seems just too much, so to Deliveroo it is and with it probably much less than healthy option.

How to Prevent Poor Food Choices?

So, what simple steps can we take now to avoid the progressive effect of fatigue derived overeating?

Some quickfire tips from the well-known Matt Walker, a guru and world leading researcher in sleep:

  1. Find a routine – consistently go to sleep and wake up at the same time everyday – unfortunately including weekends!
  2. Prep Food in Advance – have healthy food ready to go, so you don’t have to fight the urge to cave to high calorie food cravings. See our energy boosting smoothie suggestion below! 
  3. Eat light at night – Its best to leave a couple of hours between eating and going to sleep so that your body can digest the food before you go to sleep

By Lulu Gibbons

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