I was approached by Tuck Sleep (www.tuck.com) to provide a guest post for my blog, and it is here! While Tuck Sleep focuses on insightful and evidence-based information on sleep, as you will find out, sleep and nutrition are linked. Check out their website, you'll learn a ton about sleep. Hope you enjoy this guest post!
Cravings can derail the best of healthy eating plans. For many people, late afternoon and evening cravings hit with a vengeance. While you might think better discipline and more willpower are the answer, there could be more to your cravings than a weakness for chocolate.
Sleep does more than keep you from dozing at your desk. Adequate rest, that’s a full seven to nine hours for most adults, is essential to appetite and metabolism control. A focus on better and more sleep might be what you need to cut down on the munchies and take a step closer to your health goals.
When you’re tired, the body releases more of the hunger hormone ghrelin. At the same time, leptin, a satiety hormone, gets released in smaller amounts. These two changes alone leave you far more likely to overeat.
But, there’s more.
What you choose to eat more of also changes when you haven’t gotten enough rest. Sleep deprivation causes the rewards center of the brain to get a bigger “hit” when you eat those high-fat, sugary snacks like cookies, chips, and other prepackaged foods. In fact, sleep deprivation and marijuana use have a similar effect on the appetite, namely a case of the munchies.
So you know you need more sleep, but how do you get it?
Good sleep starts with the right sleep environment. Studies have shown that clean air improves sleep quality and next day alertness. Opening your windows at night or using an air purifier could help your sleep quality, especially if you have allergies or a home with poor ventilation. Beyond air quality, the room should be kept cool at night to support the body’s need for a drop in body temperature at the onset of sleep.
Many people don’t realize they’re sabotaging their sleep with poor habits. For example, watching television or using a laptop before bed can work against you because the bright light from the screen can suppress sleep hormones. You can either select a low light setting or turn off your devices at least two to three hours before your planned bedtime.
And, speaking of bedtime, try to keep yours consistent. A regular bedtime helps your body establish a predictable sleep schedule, which allows the brain properly time the release of sleep hormones.
If you have trouble falling asleep, develop a relaxing bedtime routine. Bedtime routines can include everything from yoga and meditation to listening to quiet music while drinking a warm cup of milk. Find activities that help you feel calm and relaxed to get rid of any built up tension or stress.
Also, don’t forget to exercise regularly. Exercise does more than strengthen your heart. It helps wear everything out, so you’re more tired at night. However, a word of caution, avoid strenuous exercise within four hours of bedtime. The rise in body temperature and release of adrenaline and endorphins invigorates the body and will keep you awake.
Your eating habits also play a role in the quality of your sleep. Regularly spaced meals help your body determine when to start releasing sleep hormones. Try to eat your meals at roughly the same time and evenly space them throughout the day. If you can, eat a light, early dinner to avoid digestive problems before bed. And, of course, avoid stimulants like caffeine within four hours of bedtime.
Getting a full night’s rest can be just what you need to cut down on cravings and set yourself up for health success.