Why You Crave Junk Food When You Haven’t Had Enough Sleep

Hey Angels and Alphas,

Have you ever found yourself craving junk food when you’re tired? You’re not alone! Recent research has uncovered the link between low-quality sleep and junk food cravings, which may explain why you reach for that bag of chips or bowl of ice cream when you have trouble sleeping. 

Poor sleep can even cause cravings for unhealthy foods in children as young as 3 years old! To help you get better sleep and keep your appetite under control, here are some tips on how to avoid junk food cravings caused by poor sleep quality.

Four Ways Sugar Affects Our Bodies

-Elevated blood sugar levels can stimulate increased appetite and cravings for carbs 

-The hormone ghrelin stimulates hunger and causes us to crave fats, carbs, and sweets after a meal. Ghrelin levels decrease when we sleep. 

-Sugar suppresses the hormones leptin (which tells you when you’re full) and insulin (which helps control your blood sugar). Over time, elevated insulin levels can lead to type 2 diabetes. 

-One study found that the quantity of calories consumed after dinner was doubled if they were preceded by a high-sugar dessert such as ice cream or cake. This can lead to weight gain over time.

When We’re Deprived of Sleep, Our Bodies React

A lack of sleep can cause feelings of fatigue, which may lead to an increased desire for sweet foods like cake and cookies, leading to the popular phrase: ‘Cravings are worse at 3 a.m.’ Our brains produce more of the hunger hormone ghrelin when we’re sleep deprived and produce less of the appetite suppressing hormone leptin. The result is that we have greater desires for junk food, but don’t feel as satisfied by it. 

Sleep deprivation also affects our motivation and mental clarity, making tasks like writing emails seem overwhelming and sending us into midday slumps with cravings for sugar or carbs. If we’re sleep deprived for a few days in a row, it’s even possible that our memories will be negatively affected.

What Happens in Our Brains During Sleep Deprivation

As we sleep, our brain releases beta-endorphins that make us feel relaxed and happy. These same endorphins are also released during moderate exercise (but the effect of these endorphins is not as strong). 

Without enough sleep, your brain releases more of these feel-good chemicals, causing you to crave junk food and want to avoid activities that would use up the energy it took to produce those chemicals. 

This might be because low quality sleep interferes with production of growth hormone, which causes muscle deterioration and other problems in people who don’t get enough sleep. The good news is, even just one night of restful sleep can have a significant impact on your hunger levels and cravings. There’s no better time than now to take a look at how well you’re sleeping!

Junk Food and Sugar Quality

You may not be aware of it, but there’s a link between junk food cravings and low quality sleep. You see, when you don’t get enough sleep, the levels of the hormone ghrelin are elevated in your body. This hormone is the one that triggers hunger signals to the brain. 

That means that if you eat less than normal while your sleep has been disrupted and is lower quality, your body will think it’s starving which can lead to unhealthy eating habits like binging on snacks that are high in sugar and calories. The easiest way to deal with this is by making sure you’re getting 7-8 hours of sleep each night.

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