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How Getting More ZZZs Can Result in Better Food Choices
By Mihir Shah, M.D.
Getting a good night’s sleep can be a game changer. It’s better for your skin and hair. It’s better for your mental performance. It can even help your body perform at its peak level if you’re doing all the other things necessary to take care of it. But did you know that a regular, beneficial, and appropriate sleep schedule can also help you make better food choices throughout the day? Beauty rest helps with a lot more than simply feeling restful.
Curb the Cravings
A recent study found that people who had either a less regimented sleep schedule or got less sleep per night on average than what is recommended were more likely to be overweight or make poorer food choices during the day. When you think about it, the reason for this seems simple. Less sleep at night means you’re more likely to be tired during the day. If your body is tired, it’s more likely to send you signals that it needs a burst of energy – and it needs it fast. In this SOS mode, you’ll crave snacks that are high in sugar or carbohydrates. These will give your body – and your mind as well – the fast energy boost its craving. Unfortunately, the cookies or chips you ate won’t give you the long-sustaining energy you need. There will likely be a bright momentary flash that lasts for an hour or so before a crash. Then the whole process will start over again.
Set a Good Sleep Schedule
Eight hours of sleep per night is a suggested amount for most people, but that doesn’t mean that there’s a one-size-fits-all approach to sleep. Some people will need more and some will need less. It will depend on you and your personal health. Figure out how much sleep you need per night and then do your best to set a schedule around that. When it’s time to go to sleep, go to sleep. Don’t watch television. Put your phone down. Set the temperature in your room to a cool, comfortable level and relax. Some people find that weighted blankets or white noise generators help. Experiment until you find what works for you. If you’re having difficulty, talk with your doctor to make sure there isn’t an underlying health issue that needs to be addressed.
While better sleep produces better food choices, it’s also true that better food choices can help produce better sleep, so the cycle, once you’re on it, is self-perpetuating. Have you ever tried to sleep after a big meal, a sugary dessert, or something incredibly acidic, like lasagna or pasta? It can be downright impossible. If you feel like snacking during the day – especially close to bedtime – think about what you’re doing first. If it’s late and you’re tired, it might be a good idea to try to just close the kitchen for the night. If you’re legitimately hungry, remember that foods high in protein, such as lean meats and fish, and fruits, vegetables, and other fibrous carbohydrates, like broccoli or an apple, will go a much longer way in sustaining your hunger than the ice cream you think you may want.