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4 Surprising Reasons You Wake Up Hungry & What To Do About It

Sarah Garone, NDTR
June 5, 2023
Sarah Garone, NDTR
Licensed Nutritionist
By Sarah Garone, NDTR
Licensed Nutritionist
Sarah Garone, NDTR is a licensed nutritionist and freelance health and wellness writer in Mesa, AZ whose work has appeared in numerous publications.
June 5, 2023
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Much like the fact that some people greet each day bright-eyed and bushy-tailed while others are confirmed night owls, we don't all arise with the same level of hunger in our bellies. It never fails that, between spouses or roommates, one person wakes up ravenous while the other could take or leave breakfast. What's that about?

Of course, there's the obvious—and possibly most common—explanation: people who eat late in the evening (especially larger portions) are more likely to meet the morning without much appetite. On the flip side, if you closed the kitchen after an early dinner, your body has had a chance to metabolize everything you ate, making plenty of room for breakfast.

Still, appetite is a complex thing. Hormone levels, sleep habits, aging, and other factors can all affect whether we rise raring to eat. Take a look at these four reasons you might wake up feeling hungry—or not-so-hungry:


You have a fast metabolism

No surprises here! Feelings of satiation largely boil down to your body's metabolic rate. If you're an athlete or someone with lots of muscle mass, you'll likely burn more calories while you sleep. (Muscle is more metabolically active1 than fat.)

"People with a faster metabolism may feel hungrier [in the morning] than people with a slower metabolism," says Kimberley Wiemann, M.S., RDN, a registered dietitian. "A quick metabolism means your body digests foods more quickly, so it takes a longer time to feel full or you may feel hungry more frequently." 


You have a health condition that's making you hungry

Any time a health condition messes with your blood sugar, there's potential for it to sway your appetite. Especially if you have diabetes or other blood sugar issues, you may find mornings are your hungriest time of day. "People with diabetes may experience a condition called the dawn phenomenon," Wiemann explains. "This is caused by high blood sugars in the morning, which could lead to increased hunger."

In other cases, the meds you're taking for a health condition could be increasing your hunger. Steroids, some antidepressants, antihistamines, and certain migraine medications have been linked to appetite changes.


You're not sleeping enough

Sleep is an often overlooked (but crazy important) factor in our feelings of hunger. A wealth of research shows that a good night's rest and an appropriate appetite go together like eggs and bacon.

One 2013 study2 reported that sleep deprivation significantly decreased the brain's ability to regulate appetite. Another small study from 20193 found that when healthy women's sleep was curtailed by 33%, they experienced increased hunger and food cravings. (They also ate more chocolate!)

The take-home: Getting enough sleep helps prevent excessive morning appetite. If you're waking up overly hungry, the solution might lie in hitting the hay a bit earlier at night.


You're getting older

For some folks, a lack of peckishness in the mornings may simply be a matter of growing older. "As people get older, they may lose some of their ability to sense if they are hungry or thirsty," says Wiemann.

Plus, the older we get, the slower our metabolism and the fewer calories we need overall. Try striving to eat more small, frequent meals, starting with a light breakfast.

How to make breakfast super satisfying

So you woke up starving? Let's get you a satisfying breakfast! Combining a source of protein with complex carbohydrates is the way to go for all-morning-long fullness. Protein is the most satiating nutrient, and the fiber in complex carb foods digests slowly, taking its time to leave your stomach. Consider the following high-protein, high-fiber breakfast options:

  • A protein shake with frozen fruit or a high-quality fiber supplement
  • Whole wheat toast and eggs
  • Greek yogurt with nuts and berries
  • A bean and veggie breakfast burrito
  • Bran cereal with milk

Oh, and even if you're the type who tends to wake up feeling "meh" about food, you might want to think about getting a little something in your belly.

"Even if someone is not hungry in the morning, they should consider eating breakfast," Wiemann encourages. "Skipping meals can also make someone 'hangry,' leading to poor concentration, bad moods, or irritability."

The takeaway

Your metabolism, sleep quality, age, and underlying health can all affect how hungry you are when you wake up in the morning. Whether you wake up full, famished, or somewhere in between, starting your day with a protein- and fiber-packed breakfast is a smart move.

Sarah Garone, NDTR author page.
Sarah Garone, NDTR
Licensed Nutritionist

Sarah Garone, NDTR is a licensed nutritionist and freelance health and wellness writer in Mesa, AZ whose work has appeared in numerous publications. After a first career as a college German teacher, health problems led her to pivot her work to the way food impacts wellness. In addition to her writing, Sarah enjoys spending time with her husband and three teenage kids, cooking, running, volunteering at a certified pro-women's healthcare center, and singing in a concert choir.