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Sleep very well may be the most important thing you do each day. Sleep isn’t just about feeling rested; maintaining healthy sleep habits are also a vital part of your mental health, physical well-being, emotional states, and even immune system function. To shine more light on the crucial role sleep plays in our lives, new research conducted by the University of Arizona Behavioral Sleep Medicine Clinic suggests that sleeping also plays a key part in regulating food cravings. If you struggle to control your binge eating, cravings, and snacking, chances are that not getting enough sleep could be sabotaging your diet.

Previous studies have found links between irregular sleep schedules and poor diets, while recent discoveries in biochemistry suggest that sleep helps regulate the hormones your brain uses to trigger hunger responses. This most recent research is one of the first to find a link between nighttime cravings for junk food and poor sleep. The research consisted of a nationwide phone survey of 3,105 people in 23 major metropolitan areas. Participants were asked how often they ate a nighttime snack and what it consisted of along with general questions meant to rate participants’ sleep health and overall physical well-being.

The data reveal that nearly 60% of Americans regularly eat night time snacks, with close to 70% reporting that lack of sleep regularly results in cravings for junk food. Michael A. Grandner, director of UA’s Behavioral Sleep Medicine Clinic, says this research reveals further links between eating habits and sleep:

Laboratory findings recommend that deprivation of sleep can result in cravings for junk food at night, which results in elevated unhealthful snacking at night. This snacking then results in weight gain. This research offers important data about the process.

This study could potentially help dieticians and nutritionists better regulate their patients’ eating habits through suggesting better sleep habits. If you’re struggling to control cravings, you might need to take a nice long look at your sleep health.

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