Tiredness, stress, and exhaustion can often trigger food binges. We reach for a snack in order to get an energy boost, when really our bodies are letting us know that we need a rest or some down-time. We often push past the signals to rest, but this can lead to problems when it comes to eating.
Sleep impacts the hormones that regulate our appetite. Short sleep is associated with higher levels of the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin and lower levels of the appetite-sating hormone leptin, so getting too little sleep can actually increase our appetite. Too little sleep can also impact insulin, which has all kinds of effects on the body, blood sugar, and food cravings. Short sleep can also mean higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn impacts insulin, setting up a vicious cycle in the body that often leaves us turning to food.
Sleep is important for our bodies for so many reasons; it not only impacts our appetite, it can also influence our food choice. During times when we're tired, stressed, and depressed we tend to choose less healthy food options, which are often high in sugary carbohydrates and low in nutrient-rich vegetables and fruits. Eating these sugary foods can impact our blood sugar levels, which causes us to crave more sugar!
Evidence seems to suggest we need to get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. If we're well rested, we naturally feel better mentally and are more able to choose healthy lifestyle behaviors, compared to when we're sleep deprived and foggy headed.
Personally, I know that when I don’t get enough high-quality sleep my stress levels elevate and my coping strategies diminish. I also tend to become quite emotional and notice that my appetite increases. During these times, I know I need to reassess and make sleep a self-care priority.
The following ideas might help you to create a good sleep routine:
- Turn off your phone and computer by 8 p.m. — this allows for reduced stimulation before bed and can help with better-quality sleep.
- Take time in the evening to journal, sit in silence, meditate, or pray - this can help prevent the events of the day going around and around in your head at night time.
- Read a relaxing book rather than watching an action movie before sleep.
- If you currently sleep less than seven hours a night, commit to going to bed 20 minutes earlier.
- Take time to physically move your body during the day — go for a walk, do some yoga, dance. This may help you fall asleep more easily. Do avoid exercise in the two hours before sleep, though, as this can be stimulating rather than relaxing.
- Speak to your close friends during the day. Sharing our thoughts, concerns, joys, and news helps us to feel a part of something larger, which can help reduce stress in our lives.
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