Have you ever noticed that lack of sleep goes hand in hand with poor nutrition choices? Maybe you stayed up all night studying for an exam or preparing for a presentation. The next morning you choose an extra large sugary coffee and a donut for breakfast, then you attempt to survive your afternoon slump with an energy drink, a few slices of greasy pizza and some french fries.

When you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re more likely to make poor food choices. And it’s not a coincidence. There are several reasons why tired people tend to eat more and end up gaining weight.

1. Lack Of Sleep Causes Carb Cravings

When your body isn’t getting the amount of rest it needs, it dips into sleep deprivation mode, which can cause you to start craving more carbohydrates. When you feel tired, your instinct is to reach for something sugary and full of simple carbs to give you a quick energy boost. These foods might give you a burst of energy, but it will only last about 30-45 minutes. After that, you’ll crash.

Sleep deprivation can also lead to higher stress levels, which in turn leads to unhealthy food choices. Michael Brues, PhD, is a sleep specialist. He explained, “When you’re stressed, your body tries to produce serotonin to calm you down. The easiest way to do that is by eating high-fat, high-carb foods that produce a neurochemical reaction.”

2. A Sleepless Routine Leads To Weight Gain

Lack of sleep can lead to weight gain even if you’re eating a healthy diet. When you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body has a difficult time trying to balance your hormones, specifically ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin stimulates your appetite and leptin suppresses it. When these hormones are unbalanced, your metabolism will slow down and your appetite will increase. This can cause you to gain weight.

One study showed that people who were sleep-deprived ate an average of 300 more calories per day. Another study found that people who only spent four hours in bed for five consecutive nights gained almost two pounds more than those who were in bed for about ten hours a night, over the course of a week.

3. The Cycle Continues

When you fall into the rut of not getting enough sleep, it can be difficult to find your way back. Your body begins to adjust to the few hours of rest you are getting, but your hormone levels become unbalanced, your stress levels elevate and you continue to make unhealthy eating choices. You might start ordering a larger cup of coffee with extra cream and sugar in the morning, downing several energy drinks per day or relying on soda and fast food to get you through your day. You might oversleep and not have time for healthy breakfast, so you run through a drive through or skip breakfast completely. These small habits lead to more unhealthy habits, and you get stuck in a cycle.

Sleep directly affects your mood, energy levels, hormone levels, emotional well-being and mental well-being, among other things! Lack of sleep causes the immune system to weaken, which makes you more vulnerable to viruses, infections and other illnesses. Sleep is a vital part of your overall health. Even if you think you’re getting by just fine on four hours a night, take a closer look at your eating habits. It’s time to break cycle.

Learn more in the video below!

Bistro MD
Daily Burn
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Sleep Research Society