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Your Hormones at Night

Posted on November 30, 2016 at 3:59 PM by Lia Bahls, RD

Do you ever notice how your cravings seem to skyrocket at night and sometimes you feel a loss of control? While it may seem as though this is a flaw within your self-control, it is actually a matter of basic human function. Everyone has four main hormones that are related to hunger and appetite and one that is related to stress, which can also increase appetite.


Insulin: Insulin is produced within your pancreas to direct and process the sugar you consume. A high intake of sugar, either through sweets or carbohydrate heavy foods (i.e. bread and pasta), leads to a spike in insulin followed by a crash. 


Leptin: Leptin is a hormone that tells your brain when you’re full. A high intake of processed foods and sugar decreases Leptin’s ability to regulate appetite allowing you to eat more even if you’ve realistically consumed an adequate number of calories.


Ghrelin: Ghrelin is your hunger hormone. Produced in the stomach, it tells you when you should eat by increasing your appetite. This hormone often spikes when sleep-deprived. Ever notice how you seem to have a lack of control around food when you’re tired?


Peptide YY: This is another hormone that works to notify you when you’re full. Sleep deprivation can lead to a drop in the levels of this hormone causing a reduced satiation signal. 


Cortisol: Ever notice when you have a crazy day at work or stressful night at home you tend to reach for snacks you normally wouldn’t? Maybe you eat more than intended? Cortisol, your stress hormone, raises blood sugar as well as insulin leading to increased hunger. 


Can you see how all of these hormones are related to increased hunger? Lack of sleep, stress and high sugar intake all lead to throwing your hormones out of whack causing increased appetite, which often leads to overeating.


But you can take back control by doing the following:


  1. Eat three meals a day. Yes, this includes breakfast! Even if you’re not a breakfast person, get something in to calm your hormones. Try some breakfast smoothies or yogurt and oatmeal.
  2. Always have a protein and a fat in your meals. These will help increase satisfaction due to slower digestion and absorption. A meal or snack of only carbohydrates will lead to that insulin spike mentioned above.
  3. Cut out the sugary drinks. This one is a strict “no”. We are always getting asked at the clinic what else there is to drink other than water, unsweetened tea or black coffee. These really are your healthiest choices. Beverages are meant to hydrate. Every so often you can allow yourself to indulge - only if you know that you can stop after one. For most individuals this would not include soda. 
  4. Find a way to relieve stress. Breathing exercises, reading, meditation, yoga, or other exercise; whatever works for you, make sure you take time for yourself each day to relax and relieve stress.
  5. Sleep.  Sleep is a priority. Aim for at least 7 hours every night. Get on a schedule that allows for you to get adequate sleep. Keep your schedule consistent, even on weekends.




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