Not getting enough sleep makes people feel hungrier, and in particular causes them to crave junk food. This has been known for some time and there is good research to support the mechanisms. If you do not get enough sleep, or you have poor quality, broken sleep, your blood level of various hunger hormones increases. You are also more likely to become insulin resistant.

Insulin resistance is also known as syndrome X and metabolic syndrome. It occurs when the cells of your body no longer respond to insulin properly. This impairs your ability to burn up carbohydrate and use it for energy. Instead your body tends to accumulate more fat, and at the same time you’re left feeling hungry, craving sugar, and never feeling quite satisfied after meals. This condition is also referred to as pre-diabetes.

Let’s also not forget the obvious factor that if you’re feeling exhausted you are much less motivated to prepare healthy meals from scratch and get regular exercise. Research has also shown that chronically exhausted people end up buying more food when they go grocery shopping, and more junk food in general.

Interestingly, some studies have shown that if you could spare a little energy for a bit of exercise, this is an effective way to control food cravings. Research published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology investigated this specific topic. Exercise helps to increase endocannabinoid levels in your brain. This makes you feel more content and satisfied, so you’ll be less likely to crave food.

Of course it’s also important to try and get enough sleep each night. If you struggle with poor sleep quality, my book Tired of Not Sleeping lists solutions for 68 things that could be interfering with your sleep. Melatonin is wonderful for helping initiate sleep, and magnesium promotes a deep, refreshing sleep.