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How's Your Sleep? The Relationship Between Hunger and Health.

Have you ever had a night of less than amazing sleep and just felt like you’re dragging all day and your hunger is insatiable? Whether getting quality sleep is a chronic struggle or an occasional battle, the impact that poor sleep has on your hunger is profound.

This is one of the first places I start with a lot of my 1:1 clients because it can fix a lot of issues right off the bat when we focus on getting more Z’s.

Let's dive into the fascinating world of how both chronic and acute poor sleep can influence the way our bodies crave and consume.

Hormones in Harmony: Ghrelin & Leptin

It’s no secret that sleep quality plays a huge role in your hormone harmony. Two hormones that pay an important role in appetite regulation are ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is known as the hunger hormone and leptin, the satiety hormone. Insufficient sleep disrupts their delicate balance, leaving you hungrier and less satisfied. Studies show even one night of poor sleep increases ghrelin levels and makes you feel hungrier. If you pile on poor sleep night-after-night, you’d be crazy to think you’re going to be able to regulate your appetite well. The dance of hormones is a crucial part of your sleep-hunger equation!

Carb Cravings: The Brain's SOS Signal

When fatigue sets in, your brain sends out an SOS for quick energy, and it loves sugar. Processed carbs become the go-to choice for many of us, but why do we crave sugar?

The brain's preferred energy source is glucose, and sugar provides that quick burst. When you're tired, your brain craves efficiency, and processed carbs loaded with sugar, seems like the perfect shortcut.

Craving sugar in the form of ultra processed food is your body’s biological response to fatigue.

While they might offer a temporary energy boost, the aftermath isn't as sweet. Processed carbs can wreak havoc on your blood sugar levels, leading to energy crashes and a cycle of cravings. Learning to outsmart your body and explore healthier alternatives to fuel your body and mind, even on the most sleep-deprived days will do you a world of good.

​​Insulin Sensitivity Rollercoaster

Have you ever thought about your sleep could influence more than just your energy levels?

It turns out a lack of quality sleep can play havoc with your body's intricate dance of insulin sensitivity. Insulin is a hormone that acts as the key to unlock your cells to allow glucose in for energy. When you're sleep-deprived, this process becomes a bit rusty.

We want our bodies to be insulin sensitive but sleep disturbances can lead to that key not working properly which means we’ll have higher levels of glucose floating around in our blood stream. When this happens on the reg, you are at higher risk for type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, elevated inflammatory markers, high blood pressure, and other serious health concerns.

The Brain Toll of Sleep Deprivation

When you're sleep-deprived, your brain is working overtime just to keep basic functions running. This leaves little energy for the more complex tasks, like making thoughtful decisions.

The result? A mental state liken to running on low battery, affecting your willpower and decision-making skills.

Decision fatigue is the phenomenon where the quality of your decisions declines after a series of choices. Now, add a poor night's sleep into the mix, and you've got a recipe for decision-making challenges, especially when it comes to food.

Think about it – when you're mentally drained, the allure of quick, convenient, and often unhealthy food options becomes more tempting. It's not a lack of willpower; it's the fatigue-induced compromise in your ability to make choices aligned with your long term health and fitness goals.

Understanding this link allows you to approach your nutrition with compassion.

It's not about a lack of commitment; it's about recognizing the impact of sleep on your cognitive function. Prioritizing quality sleep becomes a powerful strategy in breaking the cycle of decision fatigue.

​​Stress and Sleep: A Vicious Cycle

Ever experienced a night of tossing and turning only to find yourself more on edge the next day? It's not just a coincidence...

Lack of quality sleep isn't just physically draining; it takes a toll on your mental resilience. When your body is sleep-deprived, stress levels are elevated. It's like your brain is on high alert, perceiving everyday challenges as more daunting than they really are.

The stress-sleep connection isn't a one-way street. While sleep deprivation increases stress, heightened stress levels can make it harder to get restful sleep. It's a vicious cycle – one that, if left unchecked, can lead to a myriad of health issues.

There’s no magic (sleeping) pill for this. Even though many of us love to turn to sleep aids (A conversation for another day, but spoiler alert: they DON’T work like you think they do!), incorporating stress management techniques and prioritizing quality sleep become essential components of your health and overall well being.

Science Speaks

If you want to dig in more, numerous studies underscore the connection between sleep deprivation and altered appetite-regulating hormones, increased stress levels and risk for many serious health conditions.

Quality sleep is a cornerstone of overall well-being. Period.

Prioritizing those ZZZs is so incredibly important for your current and long term health.

If you feel lost and need some help because you don’t know where to start, reach out, I’d be happy to chat with you!

Wishing you restful nights and energized days! It really makes such a big difference!


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