How Sleep Affects Our Diet
Sleep is often overlooked in our busy lives
Missing out on sleep affects health in many ways, partly because a lack of sleep can lead to poor diet choices
If you are struggling to sleep or have a difficult relationship with food, find a therapist here
You are exhausted, limping through the day, concentration fuzzy and mood waning, needing coffee, tea, diet coke – anything that is caffeine laden. The post-lunch energy slump brings intolerable cravings for sugar, and by 4pm, your energy levels are crashing and you’re rooting in the cupboard for some sustenance to carry you through till dinner time.
The temptation to get your eating in check through the new shakes diet, or to eat super-clean à la Insta-goddess, or even having some cognitive behavioural therapy to work on those negative ‘I’ve blown it, so might as well eat three chocolate bars, a family pack of crisps and hmmm what next’ thoughts might all be rendered useless, when you’re missing a fundamental need.
Getting enough sleep.
‘I don’t have time for sleep’ you splutter over your third coffee by 9am. ‘Life is too busy – the day job, the ferrying kids around, never-ending cleaning, the garden, a bit of a social life, family stuff, etc’. You might find that this life juggling results in no shut-eye till past midnight. You finally clutch at some ‘me time’ at 10pm, whilst getting engrossed in the latest box set or eBay purchase or maybe the jobs continue! Six hours later, you drag yourself from the warm sheets, in response to the blaring alarm, then getting back on the busy treadmill and pressing repeat. If you have small children, this mediocre sleep-window is likely prompted with interruptions.
No wonder, that getting more sleep can feel like a preposterous goal to achieve. It might also seem a boring, needless priority, a spoiler and just plain unrealistic.
It is a truth that developing a decent going-to-bed routine and prioritising sleep requires self-discipline and focus. You need to absolutely want to do it. It isn’t going to just happen.
Many people don’t realise, that if you are trying to stop overeating, binge eating or emotional eating, getting enough sleep is particularly crucial.
Neglect good sleep at your peril, if you are striving to get to a healthy weight.
Physiologically, your appetite regulating hormones are massively impacted by lack of sleep. This means a fall in blood levels of leptin – the hormone that helps produce feelings of fullness, and a rise in levels of ghrelin – the hormone that tells the brain to make you hungry. This disruption in hormones means that your body cannot help but feel famished! You will crave carbohydrates and desire high-fat foods, with haribo, pastries, do-nuts and fries, calling out to you.
Emotionally, a lack of sleep impacts you too. A study by the University of California, Berkeley investigated sleep deprivation and the impact on the brain’s emotional processing. They found that getting quality sleep helps regulate mood and our ability to cope with life’s daily challenges, in a reasoned and controlled way. A lack of sleep can result in the emotional centres being 60% more reactive. This means you’re more likely to reach impulsively for the cake, when your laptop crashes or you spill a brightly, coloured beverage down your white shirt.
Find ways to prioritise sleep. It is worth the effort. Otherwise your noble efforts with healthy eating and mindfulness might well be compromised. Start with baby steps to make this a manageable and achievable goal. If you are suffering with chronic sleep problems do speak to your GP and get support.