Tuesday, October 9, 2018

How Sleep Can Fight Sugar Cravings

The journey to building a healthy lifestyle can feel like navigating a battleground. Every positive health choice is another step towards a win. However, food cravings, especially sugar cravings, could be a chink in your armor. Sleep deprivation can overpower your determination makes it so you’re fighting against your body’s natural reactions to sleep loss.
Many people consider sleep a luxury. It’s actually a necessary biological function that not only gives your body a chance to recharge and heal but also maintains the hormonal balance that regulates your appetite.
On average, adults need seven to nine hours of sleep for the body to be completely rested. Anytime you get less, you are in danger of sleep deprivation, which causes the body to change how it normally functions.
When you’re tired, your body releases more hunger hormone and less satiety hormone. This change in hormone balance puts you at higher risk of overeating. But, that’s not the only change that takes place when you don’t get enough rest. Lack of sleep activates the endocannabinoid (eCB) system. Activation of this system causes the reward center of the brain to take a bigger “hit” when you eat high-fat, sugary foods. It also makes sugar cravings more frequent and harder to resist when you’re tired.
A study published in SLEEP explored the eCB system’s relationship to sleep. Researchers found that when participants slept for 4.5 hours they were more likely to choose foods with 50 percent more calories and two times more fat than when they’d gotten 8.5 hours of sleep. The cravings were experienced in the afternoon and evening when many people find themselves really feeling the effects of sleep loss.
With the changes in hormone levels and alterations to food choices that come with sleep loss, it’s easy to see how lack of sleep leads to unhealthy food choices and weight gain.
However, a few nights of solid sleep can get you back on track. There are many personal habits and behaviors that can come back to influence your ability to sleep.
  • Nighttime Comfort: The conditions in your bedroom should be cool, dark, and quiet to eliminate the distractions and discomfort. Other small changes can also make a difference to your comfort like bedding made of natural fibers, a weighted blanket, or mouthguard to prevent snoring. As you eliminate each distraction or discomfort, you give yourself a better chance of getting the rest you need.
  • Follow a Consistent Sleep Schedule: A consistent sleep-wake schedule helps your body correctly time the start of your sleep cycle. Try to keep the same sleep schedule on the weekends so your body isn’t fighting sleep debt come Monday morning.
  • Eat Smart and Healthy: A well-balanced diet can aid in the production of sleep hormones. For example, dairy products, leafy greens, almonds, and cherries all have nutrients that aid in the production of melatonin, a hormone that signals the start of the sleep cycle.

By making sleep a priority, you won’t be fighting your body’s natural reaction to sleep loss. While healthy sleep habits won’t get rid of all your sugar cravings, they put your willpower and determination back in the driver’s seat.

Author bio:  Stacey L. Nash is a Seattle area writer for Tuck.com whose insomnia led her to research all aspects of sleep. With a degree in communications from the University of Puget Sound, she helps put sleep into the forefront of the health and wellness conversation. When not researching and writing about sleep, she spends time with her husband and four children on their heavily-wooded, twelve-acre piece of heaven.

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