If you’ve had inadequate sleep, you tend to feel hungrier and seek higher-calorie comfort foods1, especially later in the day2. You’re awake for more hours, giving you more time to eat. And when you’re tired, exercise is usually not at the top of your list — but drinking more coffee to stay awake is.
Eating high calorie foods late at night, increasing caffeine intake, getting no exercise — all of these are a recipe for poor sleep the next night. Now you’re in a vicious cycle of bad habits and inadequate sleep.
There’s a biological reason behind craving late night pizza and beer, derailing any weight loss plan. Two metabolism-related hormones with a yin/yang effect are at work. Ghrelin promotes hunger while leptin contributes to feeling full, and they work day and night to regulate your appetite. A lack of sleep affects the body’s regulation of these chemical messengers, giving you more ghrelin and less leptin and a pathway to weight gain.
In one study, a group of participants slept for 8 hours each night over an 8-day period while a second group slept 5.3 hours. The latter group ended up consuming 677 more calories and had no change in activity level3. Over time, this caloric consumption would not only lead to weight gain but would tip the scales towards obesity4.
What time you eat plays a role in weight loss. When you skip breakfast and eat a late lunch, you tend to lose weight less quickly. Eating a healthy breakfast and consuming more of your calories before 3 p.m. can help your efforts5. A tip to help you sleep better and assist in weight loss: Avoid eating three hours before you go to bed. And stay far away from heavy foods and alcoholic beverages.