The Insomnia-Carb-Cravings Connection

A Cravings-Crushing Monday Feature

It happens to many of us: We spend a night tossing and turning and then the next day, we’re blearily dragging ourselves through work, meetings, family obligations, or other planned activities.

Your head may ache, you find it hard to stay focused, your energy levels plummet, and almost inevitably, you crave just about every donut, bagel or chocolate chip cookie in sight.

Sound familiar?

Sure, you can blame your sleeplessness on stress, your late-night meal, your late-afternoon coffee, your hormones, lots of EMF, or a loud neighbor. Or maybe you just needed to run to the restroom.

Whatever the reasons, you want and need to go back to sleep.

Next week, I’ll share 7 Ways to Get Back to Sleep, but now, you need to know about the all-important Insomnia-Carb-Cravings-Connection.

Not enough sleep can bring on wicked carb cravings — the kind that are really tough to resist.

While you’re just trying to make it through the day, you may become fixated on fast fuel — foods that will enter your bloodstream quickly.

    • Fast fuel means sugar, candies, cookies, chips and any other rapidly processed carbohydrates (what I call quickie carbs, much-like-sugar carbs or toxic carbs).
    • Fast fuel means those “carb treats,” which send your blood sugar levels soaring, followed by blood sugar crashes and a plethora of symptoms, from brain fog to headaches  to the jitters.
    • Fast fuel means those toxic snacks, which can ultimately cut your life short.

When you’re sleep-deprived, your willpower wanes, but a donut, muffin or cookie won’t help.

There’s fascinating science, which explains why you get sleep-deprived-triggered cravings.Sleepless nights have a direct impact on brain regions that control decision making, and they make us more inclined to crave junk food rather than healthy foods, according to research from UC Berkeley, which was published in the journal Nature,

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the UC Berkeley researchers scanned the brains of 23 people, first after a normal night’s sleep and next, after a sleepless night. When sleep-deprived, the brains showed an impaired activity in the frontal lobe, an area which governs complex decision-making.

At the same time, sleep-deprived brains showed increased activity in the brain centers that respond to rewards—which explains why study participants reported craving unhealthy snack and junk foods when they were sleep deprived.

“What we have discovered is that high-level brain regions required for complex judgments and decisions become blunted by a lack of sleep, while more primal brain structures that control motivation and desire are amplified,” said Matthew Walker, a UC Berkeley professor of psychology and neuroscience and senior author of the study.

“High-calorie foods also became significantly more desirable when participants were sleep-deprived.

“This combination of altered brain activity and decision-making may help explain why people who sleep less also tend to be overweight or obese.”

One thing to bear in mind. One of the worst things you can do it eat sugary snacks before bed. That’s a recipe for sleeplessness.

Of course, knowing why you crave junk foods when you’re sleep deprived is only half the battle.

Soon, I’ll share 7 Ways to Get Back to Sleep.

In the meantime, Join the Cravings Conversation. Do you have trouble sleeping after you eat carbs or sugar? What have you done to NOT eat sugary foods at night?

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