July 30 2015

Sleep and Cravings. What’s the Connection?

Written by Amber Leon, MS, DTR, RevUp Health Coach

Bagels, donuts, and packaged energy bars. What do all of these grab-n-go breakfast items have in common? Carbs, carbs, and more carbs! Many of us crave these carb-heavy items, especially in the morning. These morning cravings may be more than a habit born from a sweet tooth. Poor sleep habits may also play a role. In our hustle and bustle, never-slow-down, sleep deprived society, we are setting ourselves up for an uphill battle.  


Beyond wrestling with feeling tired, research has shown that lack of sleep can lead to hormonal disruptions , which increase hunger-stimulating hormones. The hunger hormone called ghrelin tells our brain when to eat while leptin signals our brain to stop. When you’re not well rested ghrelin increases while leptin plummets.  In an effort to boost energy and squelch the beast roaring inside, we reach for food and caffeinated beverages to compensate. Not just any foods will suffice though—we crave energy dense sugary, salty and fatty foods. These are the same foods that we desire when our pleasure-seeking unconscious brain is activated. Sleep deprivation dulls the portion of the brain responsible for decision-making and impulse control. 

So what does this all mean? 

Lack of sleep may increase cravings and the likelihood of overeating, particularly “can’t have just one” sugary, salty and fatty foods. 

The amount of sleep each person needs is highly individualized; however, the recommendation is 7-8 hours each night. Check in with your sleep habits and consider whether your cravings are connected to too little sleep. Revisit our tips for how to improve your sleep hygiene and pay attention to your cravings. Pick one sleep behavior to work on for a week in your quest towards better sleep habits. Start small and celebrate each time you perform the behavior. As your sleep improves, take notice of changes in cravings. 

Test out these tips and share with your RevUp Health Coach. Remember to focus on the process and celebrate each victory along the way! 

About Amber Leon, RevUp Health Coach

coach-amber.jpgCredentials: Master of Science (MS) in Nutrition
National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT)
Dietetic Technician, Registered (DTR) 

Specialties: Sport nutrition, group and individual consultations, corporate wellness, weight management, mindful eating, whole foods cooking, and educational workshops

More about me: I am originally from Northern California and I have my MS from Bastyr University. I have worked as a personal trainer and provided evidence-based nutrition for wellness, disease prevention, and optimal performance, advocating the healing power of nutrition. I also compete as a fitness professional in the International Fitness Body Building & Fitness (IFBB.)

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