Sleep – it is something many of us frequently want more of but perhaps do not prioritize in our day to day lives. However, when it comes to trying to improve eating habits, skimping out on sleep is not doing us any favors. Why? Sleep impacts our hunger hormones which, in turn, affects many other aspects of our health. 

Two hormones in our bodies, ghrelin and leptin, are known as the hunger hormones. Ghrelin stimulates appetite and leptin decreases it. Together, these hormones regulate hunger. Sleep has an impact on how much of these hormones we produce each day. If the body has been deprived of sleep, ghrelin levels spike while leptin levels fall. One of the primary results: increased hunger. 

While sleep is important for long-term health for MANY reasons (that could be its own post!), sleep is also necessary for feeling great in the present. In a study by Schmid et al. (2008) it was found that, after just one night of sleep deprivation, ghrelin levels had significantly increased – and so did the associated feelings of hunger. This was after just one night of less sleep, imagine what a recurring cycle of this could do! After consistent sleep deprivation, ghrelin levels are increased to a higher level and leptin is also lowered. This is different from just one night of sleep deprivation where leptin levels were not affected. In short, a long time of sleep deprivation leads to a major increase in ghrelin, which increases appetite, and a decrease in leptin, which helps us to control our appetite. 

Ghrelin increases appetite, slows metabolism, and also decreases the body’s ability to burn fat. It also favors the accumulation of fatty tissue in the abdominal area, something we should be striving to decrease. Leptin, on the other hand, supports metabolism and fat burning. We definitely don’t want to have the wrong amounts of these hormones in our bodies! One thing you can do to help them be in check: sleep enough! 

It is easy to put sleep on the back burner; other things take priority, right? That shouldn’t be the case! In order to improve our health, we must prioritize sleep. Here are some helpful tips to improve sleeping habits: 

  • Avoid stress-provoking activities close to bedtime: paying bills, looking at finances, thinking of stressful situations, etc.
  • Promote joyful thoughts and relaxation: read a good book, have good conversations, journal, listen to relaxing music, etc.
  • Plan to sleep: do your best to allot at least 7 hours of sleep each night; strive to be in bed before 11 P.M.
  • Avoid large meals before bed. 
  • Complete aerobic exercises 3 hours before bedtime. 
  • Refrain from drinking any caffeine after 2 P.M. and alcohol 3 hours before bedtime. 
  • Keep consistent: try to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. 
  • Set yourself up for success: begin preparing for bedtime 30 minutes before. For example, dim lights (in bedroom, bathroom, living areas, etc.) and avoid screen time.