How does sleep impact our relationship with food?




Do you feel like your cravings control you? Do you often find yourself sabotaging your healthy eating intentions and/or just feeling like your overall energy levels need a boost? It can be tempting in these moments to believe that the latest diet or healthy eating craze will be the solution you need however, in most cases it’s really about checking in with the basics.

· Are you eating enough?

· Are you regularly moving your body in ways that enjoy?

· How are my stress levels?

And most importantly;

· How is the quality of my sleep?

Not only can what you eat and drink affect how well you sleep. The quality of your sleep also affects what you choose to eat and drink. Everything is connected and yet it is so commonly overlooked when it comes to improving our eating habits.

Redirecting the focus to improving your sleep habits can in itself, impact our relationship with food and the daily choices we make. Here’s how:

1. Sleep deprivation alters appetite-regulating hormones. Sleep deprivation impacts the appetite-regulating hormones, ghrelin, and leptin. Ghrelin triggers a strong sensation of hunger, while Leptin signals the feeling of being satisfied and full. Not only can sleep deprivation leave us feeling hungrier throughout the day, but we may also find that we feel less satisfied and need to eat more than we would normally eat if we were well rested.

2. Sleep deprivation impacts our eating habits as we tend to turn to food as a quick source of energy to get through our day. Food is and always will be a quick source of energy when we’re feeling tired but is only a temporary solution until our lack of sleep comes knocking again. Not only that, but the foods and drinks we choose will be those that provide a rush of energy. These include caffeine, sugar and other simple carbohydrates which are fine in moderation but can negatively impact our mood, energy levels and – sleep – when we indulge too often.

3. Poor quality sleep will impact our overall outlook on life, our relationships, productivity, drive, and mood. An unbalance in any of these things can leave us turning to food for comfort. Poor sleep simply makes our ability to handle day to day stresses more difficult and food can then be is a natural distraction or comfort. I’m sure we’ve all heard of emotional eating. Sleep will only intensify these urges to use food as an emotional release.

Likewise, getting a good night’s sleep can also positively impact our emotions, and when we feel good, we’re also less likely to reach for food for comfort and instead choose foods that continue to lift us up.

4. Lack of sleep can impact our ability to eat ‘intuitively’. When we’re tired, it’s much more difficult to discern what it is that our bodies need. Our feelings of hunger and fullness play tricks on us, we’re more emotional, and of course fatigued. All of which will make it harder to tune into our bodies intuitively and give them what it is that they really need.

Doing what we can to achieve a better night’s sleep, rather than piling on other food rules and restrictions will have a much greater impact on our wellbeing, our dietary choices, our work, emotional wellness and overall health. If you’re concerned about your eating habits, and you know that your sleep could use some support, start there and the rest will trickle from there.

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https://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms3259

https://occup-med.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12995-021-00310-6

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