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Sleep and Weight Management: The Connection

Ever burn the midnight oil only to find you have the munchies?? There is a reason for this. When we are tired and our bodies need to be replenished with sleep, but DON’T sleep, hunger hormones are released. It’s as if the body is saying, “Hey, I need repletion!  If you won’t let me re-energize with sleep, then I need energy from food!!”  Most of us don’t end up craving carrots and hummus in the wee hours…No, it’s usually donuts, cookies, chips -- you know, quick energy and “comfort” foods.

Research shows that inadequate sleep is a factor in many health conditions including unwanted weight gain, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and depression. Let’s explore ways to incorporate adequate sleep to improve overall health and weight management.

  1. Go to bed before the “midnight munchies” strike. This controls overall caloric intake for the day.
  2. Be mindful of your body: Is sleep what is really needed, instead of food? Avoid pushing beyond the point of tiredness.
  3. Establish a consistent bedtime. This can help reinforce strategies 1 and 2.
  4. Eat a substantial evening meal. This can help prevent hunger and cravings from keeping you awake or waking you up in the middle of the night.
  5. If needed, consume a small bedtime snack. Be sure to allow for these calories in your overall meal plan. Select a snack that contains protein and complex carbohydrates for sustained energy release. Snack ideas include:
    • ½ banana with 1 TBSP nut butter
    • 1 small apple with 1 oz. string cheese
    • 8-10 crackers with 1 TBSP nut butter or 1 oz. cheese
    • ¼ cup mixed nuts with 1 TBSP raisins or dried cranberries
    • 6 oz. low-sugar yogurt
    • 6 oz. plain yogurt with ½ cup mixed berries
    • ½-1 cup blueberries with 4oz reduced-fat milk
    • ¼ cup low-fat/low-sugar granola with 6 oz. low-sugar yogurt
    • 1 cup raw vegetables with ½ cup hummus


Keeping both a food diary and sleep journal can help identify when sleep might be unnecessarily replaced by food. Awareness of both eating patterns and sleep patterns may be the first step in successfully connecting sleep, health, and weight management.



About the author

Leslee Blanch

Leslee Blanch is a registered dietitian and group fitness instructor with a passion to promote wellness for individuals and for the community. As a Family and Consumer Sciences associate educator with University of Idaho Extension in Bonneville County, she offers a variety of wellness topics, including nutrition, fitness, and mental/emotional well-being.

Registered Dietitian
Certified Group Fitness Instructor

Family and Consumer Sciences Associate Extension Educator

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