How Sleep Deprivation Leads to Poor Food Choices

Posted by LYFE Fuel on

According to findings of a study by the journal SLEEP, adults who get less than eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night are more likely to have poor nutritional habits causing them to gain weight.

Based on the study, sleep deprivation causes an increase in the level of the chemical signal in your brain, known as endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). Under normal circumstances, these chemical levels reach their peak mid-day and then taper off in the afternoon. When sleep loss occurs, people continue to experience heightened endocannabinoid levels past the peak until early evening. During this extended-release period, you may find yourself snacking on what researchers consider to be “highly-rewarding” food like candies, cookies, or chocolates. 

The satisfaction of snacks

When you are sleep deprived, your body chemistry falls into imbalance, which enhances the sensation of pleasure that you experience for eating sugary snacks and unhealthy carbohydrates. The part of your brain that triggers the release of the chemical is the same system targeted by the cannabinoid compounds in marijuana, which explains why people who consume marijuana experience periods of heightened cravings. 

Midday snacking isn’t necessarily bad for you, but sleep deprivation will make you vulnerable to making poor food choices. The repetitive loss of sleep may form into frequent cravings for unhealthy food and increased food intake. When you habitually consume processed meats, salty snacks, and sugary drinks, you deprive your body of essential nutrition and nourishment from whole food, natural food products, or even plant-based meals. 


Why don’t we get enough sleep? 

The problem with sleep loss is that it is socially encouraged. In fact, people are often rewarded to go long periods without enough! Some brag about working long hours and cramming multiple activities in a single day. Working late is tantamount to working hard. In our modern society, sleep deprivation is worn like a badge of honor, praising those who sacrifice sleep in the name of a busy, cosmopolitan lifestyle. 

Many people forgo their eight hours of nightly rest with little regard for the long-term impact it has on their mental and physical wellbeing. Maybe personal choices aren’t entirely to blame. There may be wider, far-reaching consequences of urban life, like long commutes, demanding careers, and high childcare costs that force people to give up hours of sleep each day.  

How do you break away from the cycle?

Sleeping and eating are part of your daily energy cycle that your body goes through. Making positive choices for both can improve your health and even help you to shed unnecessary weight. If you want to make better choices, here are a few tips you can try:

Make time for rest

Work, exercise, and social activities all have a spot in your daily calendar. You should also set aside time for rest. If you know you’ve been skipping out on sleep, cut back on one non-essential activity and purposefully choose to rest instead. Target to get seven to eight hours of sleep per night, and wind down your day an hour before going to bed. Giving your body time to calm down from all distractions will help you have a more restful night. 

Listen to your body

The initial step to improve your overall health is to be conscious of the warning signs. If you are frequently getting sick or you experience fatigue, your body is probably trying to tell you that it needs to rest. Illness is nature’s way of getting you to stop what you are doing to make drastic changes to your lifestyle.

Keep nutritious food on stock

If you know you are going to be sleep deprived because of your schedule, take charge of your cravings and stock up your fridge and your pantry with healthy and nutritious options. Keeping chips and sugary cookies out of your house will minimize the chances of reaching for them when you are at your weakest. 

Improving your sleeping patterns can have drastic improvements in your diet, as well as your overall health. The key here is to be aware of why you make the choices you do and be mindful of the triggers. If you can address both adequate sleep and supplement it with proper nutrition, you will reap the long-term health benefits.

Make healthier food choices and get your nutrients from the better sources. We offer whole food plant-based programs that can overhaul your diet and help you get the essential nutrition you need. Contact us today to start your transformation!