A lack of sleep can alter your eating habits

MaMa! Maaa-Ma! This is the sound of my human alarm clock, waking me promptly around 6 o’clock every morning.

MaMa! Maaa-Ma!…Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa-Ma!!

This is the sound of my human alarm clock, waking me promptly around 6 o’clock every morning.

Lucky for her, she is very cute, greeting me with a big smile, a coo and a jog-on-the-spot. My children have no respect for current guidelines recommending that adults need seven to nine hours of sleep every night.

It is ungrateful to consider children a risk factor for chronic disease, but let’s face it: sleep deprivation, stress, sometimes they feel like a mixed blessing.

Sleep deprivation can affect nutrition in various ways. Firstly, insufficient sleep can impact levels of your hunger and satiety hormones, increasing ghrelin and lowering leptin. Ghrelin tells your body that it is time to eat, while leptin cues your brain that you are full. This translates to feeling more hungry and less satisfied when you do eat. Cortisol, a stress hormone, can also spike in sleep deprivation, decreasing metabolic rate to conserve energy for your waking hours.

There are behavioural impacts to your nutrition as well. When you are tired, your judgment is impaired and you may have less impulse control and ability to deal with cravings.  You may be able to turn down the box of donuts at work when you are well-rested, but when tired, they are more appealing. Tired people do not want to go out jogging or to the gym. Studies of sleep deprived people show they eat more high-carb foods and are more inclined to do late-night snacking. So what food-related behaviours can help us with our sleep?

• Avoid caffeine up to eight hours before bedtime (coffee, tea, chocolate, energy drinks);

• Avoid alcohol close to bedtime (while it may help put you to sleep, it affects the quality of sleep);

• Exercise regularly, but not right before bed;

•Avoid large meals before bed;

• Stay hydrated during the day and avoid too much fluid intake before bed (to prevent waking to go to the bathroom);

• If you do shift work, try maintain a consistent eating pattern on days on and off.

When you are feeling tired, try to be mindful of your food choices – while sugar and caffeine are quick pick-me-ups, they will not make you feel better long-term, and may affect your ability to sleep later in the evening.

-Serena Caner is a registered dietician who works at Shuswap Lake General Hospital.


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