Corporate wellness insights

3 Ways Sleep Affects Appetite and Nutrition

Posted by Colleen Sideck, MPH, RDN on 12.07.2018

When you wake up from a poor night of sleep, how do you feel? What differences do you notice? You may physically feel slower and sleepier, and your mind might feel foggier than usual. Maybe you notice other symptoms as well. Getting enough quality sleep affects appetite levels because it has a huge impact on how you think and perform during the day—and can also make or break how well you’re able to stick to your nutritious eating habits.

There are several reasons why failing to get enough shut eye might impact your food choices and cravings.

  1. Being tired lowers your energy level, which makes it more difficult to stick with healthy habits. Until habits are routine, it takes willpower to stay on track, and willpower requires energy, which you won’t have enough of if you’re sleep deprived.
  2. Sleepiness and hunger have similar signs, which can make them difficult to tell apart. For both, you could have difficulty concentrating, be physically or mentally tired, or feel moody.
  3. After a night of poor sleep, hunger and fullness hormones are disrupted. Levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin increase, while levels of the fullness hormone leptin decrease. This typically leads to an increase in appetite.

Establishing a bedtime routine, creating a supportive sleep environment, and gradually getting to bed earlier are all changes that can be made to promote more restful sleep. However, like all positive changes, they take time to become routine.

In the meantime, acknowledge that your eating habits might be a little off until your sleep habits improve, and find ways to support yourself if you notice certain challenges in your way.

If you think you’re craving a late-night snack, recognize that this could be an area of confusion. Ask yourself if you’re feeling hungry or if you’re actually physically or mentally tired. If your willpower to eat healthy is drained by the time you get home from work, see if you can start preparing healthy meals in advance on the weekends so that you don’t need to think, just reheat. Or, if you’re in a pinch, opt for a healthier TV dinner or can of soup, and add frozen vegetables on the side. Plan ahead to make healthier food choices as easy as possible until your schedule allows you to get back on track with sleep and fully recharge your brain.

Learn more about our approach to health coaching, or contact us directly today to discover how our health coaches can support your employees’ wellbeing!

Colleen is a member of the WCS Health Coaching team. As a Registered Dietitian, she is passionate about our team's ability to guide employees towards sustainable, healthy habits that help them lead their fullest life—inside and outside the workplace.