Is the power to beat cravings in your pillow?

03.03.16 |

I get this question a lot: How do I beat cravings?

And I understand why. The best of intentions can be derailed by a rogue desire for something sweet. In the past, we’ve talked about how a craving could be tied to a particular stimulus, like your boss saying something mean to you at work. Understanding your habit loops—the relationship between a trigger and a behavior—is an important part of building Habits of Health.

Health consequences of restless sleep

At the same time, however, we need to recognize that some of our choices can ripple much farther into our futures than we might realize.

Take sleep for example.

Understanding your habit loops is an important part of building Habits of Health.

Like we’ve talked about in the past, not getting enough restful sleep leads to numerous health challenges. It can affect weight gain, your ability to cope with stress, the robustness of your immune system, your mental acuity, and yes, the frequency and strength of cravings.

In terms of medical research, we’ve had a good idea that this was the case for a long time. New research, however, helps us understand how this connection works and just how powerful it can be. So if you don’t get enough sleep, just how bad can your cravings become? According to a study publishing in the journal Sleep, cravings tied to sleep deprivation are on par with the cravings associated with marijuana use.

That sounds silly, but I’m not joking.

Regardless of what causes the lack of sleep—stress, overwork, video games—you are likely to have a bigger appetite the next day and a greater desire for the types of foods I encourage you to avoid. According to the study in Sleep, participants consumed more than 300 extra calories as a result of their sleep loss. If you play that out over a year—or a few decades—it’s not hard to see just how much of an impact poor sleep habits can have on your health.

Link to emotional eating

And that’s just from sleep. This study did not go as far as to explore how a loss of sleep could contribute to emotional eating. If we return to the scenario of our boss yelling at us, trigging us to reach for a sugary snack to ease our stress, imagine how much more difficult conquering that craving becomes if we have the emotional trigger coupled with the chemical trigger of not having enough sleep.

Talk about stacking the odds against yourself!

The habit loop itself can be a challenge in itself to reprogram, and not having enough sleep to begin with could ramp up that difficulty exponentially. If you want to make your Habits of Health easier to execute overall, you should definitely rethink how you handle sleep. More quality sleep could you set you up for success in almost every other area of your health.

Go be friends with your pillow again. Start tonight.