THE SOLUTION TO KICKING YOUR 3PM CHOCOLATE CRAVINGS MIGHT BE AS SIMPLE AS GOING TO BED EARLIER.
It’s 8pm, you’ve long finished dinner when… BAM! Sugar craving.
Cut to the next day, it’s 10am and you’re at work, staring at the clock and counting down the hours until lunch. Maybe you’ll just pop into the bakery down the road. It can’t hurt, right?
Maybe not, but it will add up when you find yourself reaching for chocolate at 3pm. Even after your delicious, healthy lunch.
If you find yourself craving sugar regularly – even though, for all intents and purposes, you eat well, exercise, drink your water and do all the right things – the answer could lie in your sleep habits.
And it’s all thanks to a little hormone called ghrelin.
Ghrelin, which controls our cravings for simple sugars and carbs, is the culprit behind many of the irresistible urges that have you reaching for anything sweet and sugary.
When you sleep poorly or enter a state of sleep deprivation, your body produces more ghrelin as a sort of ‘backup system’ to try to get you to fall asleep, with the unintended side effect of sugar cravings.
Of course, this happens to all of us at different times, but if it’s happening to you frequently, you might want to take stock and consider your sleep schedule.
A recent study found that when people went from getting eight hours of sleep down to five hours of sleep, not only were they a little grumpier but their reduced sleep also had a direct correlation to a higher level of ghrelin in their bodies – 15% higher, to be exact.
As a result, they found themselves more frequently reaching for the simple sugars and carbs even when they weren’t hungry, and even against their better judgement, when they knew it would interfere with their diet or when they knew that it wasn’t going to be as satisfying as it looked.
But before you go cursing your body, hold up a second.
Your body isn’t to blame and it’s just trying to do its job. In fact, when ghrelin production occurs on an ideal schedule, it can actually be helpful in promoting a restful sleep. Accumulating some ghrelin before we go to bed helps us to sleep better (yet another reason not to have your last meal of the day right before you hit the sack). This is why, when you’re tired or sleep deprived, your body produces more ghrelin to try and get you to go to sleep.
Unfortunately, your body doesn’t realise the difference between trying to sleep at 10pm vs. trying to go to sleep at 10am when you’re sleep deprived.
CURBING YOUR CRAVINGS
Getting some sleep will make a dramatic difference to your cravings, according to science.
Take a moment to consider whether you’re actually as rested as you might think you are. Sleep deprivation doesn’t just mean total insomnia – it can also happen when you get an hour less sleep than usual or stay up a few too many nights in a row scrolling through your Instagram feed.
Additionally, it can help to understand your circadian rhythm and how it applies to your hunger cues. Studies show that hunger is often at its strongest between meals.
So, if you eat breakfast at 7am, you’re likely to get quite hungry at around 10am, waiting for lunch at midday. Similarly, if you eat dinner at 6.30pm and go to bed at 11pm, you’re likely to experience a hunger pang at around 8.30pm.
Consider your usual meal times and the reliable times that your cravings come around and be prepared in advance by keeping healthy snacks on hand. That way if you can’t resist the urge, you at least won’t overload yourself with carbs and sugars.
It can also help to tailor your meals to promote a restful sleep, consuming foods high in melatonin and tryptophan (like eggs, salmon, spinach, seafood, rice and beans) for dinner and more protein-heavy foods for breakfast. This schedule will keep you fuller for longer during the day and allow your body to wind down, producing enough ghrelin before bed to help you sleep soundly.
Lastly, don’t ignore the quality of your sleep. Eight hours of sleep that’s shallow, restless and interrupted won’t carry the same benefits as deep, REM-stage sleep. When it comes to sleep, it’s all about good quality and specific quantity – which is 7-8 hours each night, according to experts.
If you’re having trouble drifting off, try spritzing your pillows and room with SLEEP WELLE Calming Mist, a natural mist formulated with Australian essential oils Lavender, Vetiver and Chamomile is designed to help you drift off into a soothing slumber. Brew a pot of herbal tea and sip one hour before bed. WelleCo SLEEP WELLE Calming Tea is formulated with Skullcap, Valerian Root and Hops, that help calm mind and body and promote deep, healing sleep.