Feeling more hungry than usual? Expert reveals it could be due to this

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If you’ve been feeling hungrier than usual, it could be due to your sleeping habits.

Human hunger is tied to circadian rhythm, according to experts, which means not sleeping enough can cause a greater appetite.

Dr. Christopher Rhodes, a nutritional biologist in California, explained in a conversation with Fox News Digital that a body deprived of sleep “seeks out energy by way of food.”

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“Sleep and eating are intimately linked due to their shared involvement in both metabolic signaling and your body’s circadian rhythms,” he said. 

“Just as we train our body on when to expect sleep, we also train it on when to expect food based on our typical mealtimes and dietary patterns throughout the day, which becomes part of our daily circadian cycles.”

man sleeps in bed

Human hunger is tied to circadian rhythm, according to experts, which means not sleeping enough can cause a greater appetite. (iStock)

Poor sleep disrupts hormonal signaling — particularly cortisol, which impacts “metabolic rate and the crucial hormones leptin and ghrelin,” according to Rhodes. 

These hormones are responsible for controlling hunger and the use of energy, he noted.

Extreme disruptions in circadian rhythm — like insomnia or “all-nighters” — can cause a “ripple effect” throughout the body, according to Rhodes.

“Sleep and eating are intimately linked.”

“[This] can throw our natural rhythms out of whack and cause issues with our biological signaling, changes in hormone levels, chemical signaling and neuronal function,” he said.

“In turn, these imbalances can cause excess hunger and cravings as our body, deprived of the energizing effects of sleep, seeks to compensate by taking in more energy from food,”

woman lies awake in bed

Staying up late at night can throw off the body’s natural rhythm, according to experts. (iStock)

Low-quality sleep can also contribute to poor cognition and reduced brain function, which reduces impulse control, the expert noted.

When these effects are combined with added cravings, and as the body “desperately seek[s] ways to fuel itself,” that can lead to excess food consumption, Rhodes warned.

Curbing cravings

While it may be difficult to ignore cravings, Rhodes suggested some healthy ways to break the cycle of increased hunger and poor sleep.

It’s best to avoid snacking at bedtime, he said, as energy from snacks can keep you awake.

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“By and large, the best bedtime snack is none at all,” Rhodes said. “Food intake immediately before bed will cause a rush of nutrients and energy into your system, which can disrupt the natural circadian signaling that helps govern your sleep cycles.”

“Moreover, food before bed can often set off cravings for more food, which can further disrupt your sleep,” he continued. “Small snacks are typically not enough to meet our body’s satiety thresholds and can lead to more hunger throughout the night.”

Woman eating a doughnut and drinking soda in her kitchen

“It’s best to avoid the canonical ‘midnight munchie’ foods like junk food, cookies, ice cream, pizza and especially alcohol,” the expert said. (iStock)

It’s best to eat at least four to six hours before falling asleep, according to Rhodes, to allow the body to fully metabolize food and store excess energy that could disrupt sleep.

“Focus on foods that have a low glycemic impact and are slow digesting — like lean proteins, healthy nuts or fibrous veggies — to avoid blood sugar spikes,” he said.

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It’s also best to avoid the traditional “midnight munchie” foods like junk food, cookies, ice cream and pizza, he advised — “especially alcohol, as it has been shown to have particularly adverse effects on sleep quality.”

Despite the preconceived idea that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, Rhodes suggested following your body’s natural hunger cues. 

“Breakfast is just another meal like any other, and not the end all be all of your daily well-being,” he said.

woman sits in front of an empty plate.

“If you don’t feel hungry in the morning, it’s best to just follow your body’s natural cues than to force yourself to eat a meal out of obligation,” Rhodes advised. (iStock)

“If you don’t feel hungry in the morning, it’s best to just follow your body’s natural cues than to force yourself to eat a meal out of obligation.”

There may be health benefits for some people who cut breakfast out of their diet, Rhodes mentioned, as studies have shown that intermittent fasting can have positive effects on blood glucose control, cognition and cholesterol levels.

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One easy way to boost energy and satiety throughout the day is to drink hot green tea or other balanced energy drinks that contain caffeine and L-theanine, to “provide sustained energy without jitters or a crash,” Rhodes said.

You sleep how you eat

The food you choose to eat can determine the quality of your sleep, according to experts.

“Quality of sleep can be altered by a number of nutritional factors, including blood glucose spikes, total caloric intake, vitamin and nutrient deficiencies, supplements, meal timing and more,” Rhodes said. 

“Insomnia and poor sleep quality have been linked with a higher risk of obesity in many studies.” 

Eat sleep split

The food you eat can determine the quality of your sleep, according to experts. (iStock)

It’s also important to avoid deficiencies in vitamins A, C, D, E, K, calcium and magnesium, which can affect sleep quality.

“Of these, magnesium supplementation may be the most beneficial, as it’s estimated that 75% of Americans are currently deficient, and magnesium supplementation is well-known to promote calm and support sleep quality,” Rhodes added.

“Insomnia and poor sleep quality have been linked with a higher risk of obesity.”

The most important aspect of maintaining good sleep and eating habits, regardless of lifestyle, is staying as consistent as possible in your day-to-day schedule, according to Rhodes.

“Stabilizing your circadian rhythms will help to improve cognition, mood, hunger signaling and sleep quality by avoiding the hormonal, chemical and neuronal disruptions that can be caused by inconsistent circadian signaling,” Rhodes said.

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“Eating the same meals in the same amounts at the same time every day and maintaining a consistent sleeping schedule will help retrain your body’s circadian rhythms and signaling, so that your atypical work and eating hours will become normal to your body.”

The expert suggested large batch meal prepping as a way to cut down on time spent cooking while also ensuring a “healthy, consistent meal” on hand when needed.

Woman preparing a nutritious meal in advance

Meal prepping is a great way to save time and ensure nutritious food intake, Rhodes said. (iStock)

For even better sleep, Rhodes recommended buying tools such as earplugs, night masks or blackout curtains to avoid distractions.

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“If needed, a melatonin supplement can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, and helps to accelerate adaptations to new sleeping schedules by normalizing sleep hormone production and circadian signaling,” he added.

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