HUNGERPRIME: INSUFFICIENT SHUT-EYE

Getting too few zeds can play havoc with your appetite signals. Too little sleep can cause a resistance to leptin, a hormone that helps signal that your stomach is full says Michael Hensley, head of the Department of Respiratory and Sleep Medicine at John Hunter Hospital. It can also increase your body’s level of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates hunger. This can then drive up your desire to eat more carbohydrates, which may lead to weight gain and poorer glucose control Research at the University of Chicago has shown that after only two nights of sleeping four hours, people experienced a 20 per cent drop in the fullnesshormone leptin and a 20 per cent increase in the hunger hormone ghrelin.

PREVENTION:

Work more efficiently rather than working back. Set timelines for tasks so that you meet deadlines and go to lunch to gossip rather than wasting too much time chatting at the water dispenser. Arrive at work half an hour earlier to get a leg up on your to-do list when you are fresh rather than working overtime and arriving home late then needing to sit up late to unwind.

Avoid being on a computer late into the evening. The bright light can affect your levels of the hormone melatonin, which helps sleep onset, Hensley explains.

Go to bed when you are tired instead of dozing in front of the tellie, as evening naps can interfere with overnight sleep. Aim to rise and retire at the same time every day so you synchronise your natural body clock and hormones with light and dark.

Hunger prime: evolution

Research involving Harvard Medical School shows that the body’s internal clocks increase susceptibility to cravings in the evening.

A hangover from cavemen days when we needed to store energy overnight in case of a food shortage was suggested to explain the phenomenon after researchers concluded that vulnerability to yearnings for starchy, sweet and salty foods is particularly steep in the PM.

PREVENTION:

Clean your teeth straight after dinner to make snacking less appealing.

Set a firm food curfew such as eight o’clock and after that, if you still feel hungry, enjoy a few cups of herbal tea.

Don’t eat your dinner while watching television – you will feel less satisfied by your meal and will then feel more like a snack later in the evening.

Never eat from the packet – if you must have an after-dinner snack, serve it on a small plate and eat slowly and mindfully Imagine a rainbow. Seriously. When researchers at Flinders University asked study participants to picture a rainbow instead of the food they were craving, their craving decreased. Imagining the smell of eucalyptus also worked as an equally effective distraction.

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