Whether you had a pile of deadlines that kept you up until the late hours, or a pile of friends that kept you partying all night, it’s not always possible to get seven to eight hours of sleep. But over time, sleep deprivation will send your appetite through the roof. Here’s how to troubleshoot when you’re running on little sleep—without surviving on energy drinks and pastries the next day.
Stick to your schedule
By eating smaller meals more frequently (i.e. approximately every three hours), you will also help maintain a steady level of blood sugar. An older study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology manipulated “dinnertime” for 22 obese and 24 healthy-weight individuals to determine whether eating behaviour changed when standard mealtimes were altered. They found that the obese group ate more when they thought they were eating after their regular dinner hour than they did when they thought that they were eating before. Moreover, skipping a meal entirely causes blood sugar imbalance and raises cortisol levels, which in turn has a host of negative consequences from increasing belly fat to disrupting insulin receptors. When cortisol is too high, we can have difficulty falling asleep or experience frequent waking throughout the night, especially between 2 and 4 a.m. To avoid this unhealthy situation, aim to eat within 1 hour of rising and then every three to four hours during the day. Stop eating approximately two to three hours before bedtime. This practice will stabilize blood sugar, reduce stress, eliminate sugar cravings and maintain your energy level. Eating at the same times every day will also help to lower excess insulin and reduce the chance that you will overeat later in the day.
Save your carbs for dinner
If your blood sugar levels are on a rollercoaster all day, you can bet your cortisol is as well, which may just leave you with frequent visits to the vending machine for something sweet. You can reduce the stress associated with blood sugar imbalance by eating protein and healthy fats at each and every meal and snack, and save your low glycemic carbohydrate for your dinner. This will boost your serotonin levels and relax you before bed. Some great protein options include: eggs, chicken, turkey, shellfish, seafood, fish while a low GI carb may include sweet potato, brown rice, or quinoa (about ½ cup or one fist serving size). Those of us with higher amounts of serotonin sleep better and longer.