Six Reasons You’re Waking Up Hungry in the Middle of the Night
It’s hard to feel positive, eat well, and stay calm when you have had a bad nights sleep. If you are waking up in the middle of the night or in the morning feeling famished, it’s likely that your body isn’t getting what it needs.
If you feel ravenous in the middle of the night or super early in the morning, there may be some nutritional issues that you need to address. Read on to learn why and what you can do to fix it.
1. Eating too close to bedtime or too heavy of a meal in the evening
Eating fast food before hitting the bed, may be the cause you are waking up feeling hungry. Consuming foods – especially those high in saturated fat and sugar (AKA fast food) – right before bed causes an increase in blood sugar. Your pancreas then releases a hormone called insulin, which tells your cells to absorb blood sugar. This causes blood sugar levels to drop, leading to hunger. Studies show that eating at night is generally less satisfying compared with eating in the morning. It is recommended to consume a small, nutrient-dense snack before bedtime. For example, a rice cracker with almond butter.
2. Skipping Meals
These days, with our busy schedules and constant rushing around, it’s easier than ever to skip meals. And if the calorie deficit becomes too large, this can interrupt sleep. The hunger cues may be strong enough to wake a person up because the body and brain are prioritizing eating over sleep. Do your best to break this bad habit—and when you do eat, make sure your meals and snacks consistently contain a mix of lean protein, fiber, and heart-healthy fats. Eating this way will keep your blood sugar and energy levels steady, helping you to stave off hunger and sleep sounder.
3. Changes in exercise
If you just started a new exercise regimen, you are likely burning more calories. Exercise takes up far more energy than other activity. So, unless you have changed your eating habits to match your new exercise regimen, you may wake up hungry.
Replacing an old exercise routine with a new one can have the same effect, even there does not seem to be an increase in physical activity.
4. Your Sleep Habits Have Changed
A lack of sleep can cause an imbalance of hormone levels, making you feel hungry even when your body doesn’t need food. The hunger hormones ghrelin and leptin stimulate and suppress appetite, respectively—and when you’re sleep-deprived, ghrelin levels go up and leptin levels go down. This leads to increased hunger and resulting with increased snacking during the day and night. Ideally you want to get plenty of restful shut eye.
5. Your Blood Sugars are out of Whack
Blood sugar problems affect how you sleep, and lack of sleep affects your blood sugar control. It’s a vicious cycle. When your blood sugar is really high, your kidneys try to eliminate it via urination, causing you to wake up to go to the bathroom throughout the night or wake up really thirsty. Every cell in your body needs sugar to work properly, so if your blood sugar is too low, you may also wake up in the middle of the night wide awake. As a response to low blood sugar your body releases hormones that help regulate blood sugar levels, including adrenaline, glucagon and cortisol, which stimulate the brain.
To remedy this, you must manage your blood sugar throughout the day, as well as avoid sugary foods in the evening so you don’t get a spike and then a dip in blood sugar in the middle of the night. We can give you recipes in our weekly meal plans to make sure you have balanced blood sugar.
Thirst is often mistaken as hunger. Dehydration makes you lethargic, which can make you think you’re hungry.
If you’re waking up with hunger cravings, try drinking a glass of water and wait and see if the cravings goes away. Make sure you’re staying hydrated during the day.
Simple dietary changes, such as avoiding high sugar and high fat foods especially before bed, getting adequate sleep, and staying hydrated can help you control your blood sugar and regulate your appetite.
If you are feeling famished every morning and tired of not sleeping, there could be something you’re missing. Click here to book a complimentary 15 minute info session to learn about how we work with clients one-on-one or virtually to have you sleeping through the night in no time.
By: Carol Aguirre MS, RD/LDN