How to Sleep When Hungry


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Have you ever been in a situation where you feel tired, but, as soon as you lay down, your belly starts to rumble? You wouldn’t think so, but it is a common problem for several reasons. 

The question does have an answer. However, it is a bit complicated. The quick answer is yes, you can sleep while you are hungry. But, it is important to know why it is happening, and again to know the steps you can take to ensure that you sleep well through the hunger pangs since there will be times when you will not be able to control the circumstances that can cause nighttime hunger.

This article will cover some of the reasons that can cause hunger at night and then proceed to cover some ways to combat these issues.

Nighttime Hunger

You might think that being hungry deals with only your diet and exercise, but there are also medical conditions that can throw your appetite out of whack.

Common Causes

Dieting

You aren’t eating enough throughout the day, whether it be dieting, or by skipping meals due to time constrictions. It is imperative to consume enough calories during the day to keep your body in perfect working order.

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding or changes in your exercise routine can cause surges in the number of calories you burn, accordingly, causing you to need to add a few more calories during the day to keep hunger at bay.

Eating too early

If you are feeling hungry at bedtime, the cause could likely be that you ate dinner too early. Ideally, there should only be 3-4 hours between dinner and laying down to prepare for sleep. This is the perfect amount of time to keep you satiated through the night yet also allows your body time for the food to digest so you won’t feel bloated, experience acid reflux, or have heartburn.

Being Bored

Boredom can mimic hunger. When your brain has too much time on its hands, you can become bored. As a result, your brain tries to think of ways to move you out of that funk and encourages your body to think you need a reward to help you feel better. Nine times out of 10 that includes food in some way, which will cause your belly to rumble while you are trying to sleep.

Consuming Alcohol

Drinking too much alcohol can also cause you to be hungry at bedtime. Research has shown that drinking alcoholic beverages can cause discord in the hunger receptors, hence, you could feel hungrier than normal.

Eating a low protein/fiber diet

A low protein and/or low fiber diet can prove to be a disaster for your appetite. Both are unhealthy in and of themselves, but the double whammy of both hurts you in two different areas of your body. Protein and fiber, both, help your body to feel full longer. However, if you are eating a low fiber diet, it can affect your digestive system as well and that can lead to more than just hunger issues. As a result, this lack of protein and fiber may cause you to be hungry at bedtime.

Consuming too much sugar

Doctors have been telling us for decades that a diet high in sugar is dangerous. First, the calories you consume from sugar burn off faster than those from other food sources. What this means, is that your sugar levels spike and crash causing you to be even hungrier than you were beforehand.

Being dehydrated

Less obvious than the others, but you could be dehydrated. You must keep your body hydrated. When you aren’t drinking enough during the day, your body starts having strange ideas. Consequently, one of these strange occurrences is that your stomach growls, thus masking thirst for hunger.

Medical causes

Overactive thyroid

An overactive thyroid can cause an increase in hunger levels. The reason why is the thyroid, a tiny organ found near the vocal cords in your neck, controls metabolism and how your body uses energy. An overactive thyroid can also lead to unexplained weight loss and feeling overheated. A simple blood test can determine if your thyroid is working overtime.

Medications

Some medications can cause your body to feel hungry. This is especially true of medications taken for depression and various other mental health disorders. Popular prescriptions for illnesses that affect breathing also tend to be hunger inducers, such as corticosteroids like Prednisone.

Stress

Stress is a precursor to increased appetite levels. Studies have shown that the brain of the overly stressed person secretes high levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, which engages the body into a fight or flight kind of situation. With your body in full fighting mode all the time from the increased stress in their lives this can create additional hunger warnings in the brain so that your body can maintain this increased anxiety state.

Diabetes

Type II Diabetes is another medical condition that can lead to being hungry more than usual. This happens for the reason that your body cannot use the sugar that you consume properly. Instead of spreading the glucose to the cells to spend as energy, it spills over into the bloodstream. The afflicted person then becomes tired and hungry. Other indicators of Type II Diabetes include an increase in thirst and frequent urination. A few different tests can show whether or not you may be suffering from this disease.

Lack of sleep

You might not be sleeping enough over long periods. If you aren’t sleeping well, your circadian rhythm, or biological clock, is out of sync and can be causing your nighttime hunger pains. Your brain regulates the hormones ghrelin and leptin when you are asleep and, as a result, in a case where you are continually sleep-deprived, your brain has trouble reconciling which hormones get released at a given time, which, as a consequence, causes you to feel hungry.

There are various reasons why you might be losing sleep, but it is imperative to warn you about one condition in particular. You could be suffering from sleep apnea, which means you stop breathing while you are sleeping and you wake suddenly and frequently, usually without knowing. This can cause a disturbance in your sleep cycle, never allowing you to obtain the refreshing sleep you need.

Hunger Pang Remedies

Here are a few ideas you can investigate whether they might work for you. 

Eat breakfast. 

As we talked about before, the receptors for the appetite centers produce ghrelin, which is the hunger hormone and leptin, the hormone that your body releases when you are full. Ideally, leptin levels increase while you are sleeping so you won’t be hungry at night. Has a result, these increased levels of leptin also keep you from being hungry when you wake up too. 

Set up a daily routine.

Therefore, your body may not feel hungry, but it is imperative to set yourself up a daily routine. Part of this daytime routine is to ensure that you are eating three satisfying meals throughout the day, including breakfast. You can throw a healthy protein-filled snack in there during the day if you feel hungry between meals.

Balance your diet throughout the day

You do want to be sure to time them well so that your body stays nourished all day. Be sure to create time to ensure that you are eating the recommended amounts of protein and fiber at each meal so that you can feel full longer. If you find that you can’t consume enough fiber from your meals, you can try a fiber supplement, which might work in a pinch, but if you can find the fiber in your diet, that is the best route. Along these lines, stay away from highly processed foods and simple carbs such as sweets. You also want to ensure that you are not taking in too much sodium as that can tend to cause you to feel hungry too.

Schedule regularly-timed meals

Eating three well-timed meals a day will also keep your blood sugar levels in check. What you eat and when you eat it are incredibly important for maintaining a suitable balance in blood sugar. If you tend to eat nothing but junk throughout the day, whenever you have a free second from all of the factors that keep you busy during the day, you run the risk of developing hypoglycemia, which means that there is not enough glucose in your body to provide the energy your cells need to operate. While not usually fatal on the whole, you might suffer a terrible headache and/or become dizzy or nauseous. Consequently, anyone with Type II Diabetes should avoid hypoglycemia at any cost as it could be fatal for you.

Avoid late night meals

We talked a bit earlier about eating your last meal no more than three to four hours before you want to sleep. This should ensure that your stomach is full before bedtime, but there is plenty of time for your food to settle and lessen the risk of heartburn, acid reflux, or bloating.

However, if you are feeling truly hungry, not bored, anxious, or thirsty (try drinking a large glass of water beforehand to determine whether or not you are dehydrated), grab a light snack about half an hour to an hour before you lay down. The best foods and drinks to consume are bits of turkey, a banana, or warm milk as they all contain tryptophan, which is a naturally occurring chemical found in these foods that can cause you to feel drowsy.

Refrain afternoon caffeine fixes

In addition to spacing out your meals, you want to ensure that you aren’t drinking caffeine after noon. A large portion of the world’s population believes that caffeine is like a miracle drug to those of us who don’t sleep well. It does help you stay awake through the day, but do you know what it also does? It ensures that you don’t sleep well that night either and the vicious cycle continues. So, why not try the no caffeine after noon trick for a week and check if it helps your sleep patterns at all.

Get a medical evaluation

If you have suspicions that you might be hungry for one of the medical reasons stated above, please consider an appointment with your doctor to decide whether you should have a blood work-up done. 

Schedule to have a sleep study done if you have chronic sleep problems. Sleep apnea is dangerous, but with treatment is controllable. Snoring is often a symptom of sleep apnea. Ask your loved ones if you snore. If you do, and especially if they tell you that it sounds as though you stop breathing in the night, please have that sleep study done. As a result, it may turn out to be nothing, but it is better to be safe than face the consequences later.

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is quite common and affects a large portion of our population. Thyroid problems are often tricky though. With treatment, you should watch for varying fluctuations in the thyroid hormone level (TSH level). That thyroid is one tricky organ so please schedule an appointment with your doctor and follow his or her orders closely.

Diabetes

Type II Diabetes causes horrifying conditions, that may include anything from being thirsty all the time to a headache to amputation of limbs to death. Diabetes is nothing to fool around with, so talk to your doctor about your symptoms and determine if you might need testing.

Go to sleep at a normal time

A logical person would think that sleeping would be one of those natural phenomena that would automatically happen when we become tired, but it isn’t that simple. All of your body processes need to work like a well-oiled machine for that to even be possible if it is possible at all.

Parents know that a routine is a key to a more content baby or toddler. Nevertheless, as we age, we sort of grow out of routines, but there is so much proof that they work. So, let’s set up a bedtime routine for us grownups.

Consistency is the key to a successful nighttime routine, including finding something relaxing. What relaxes you? Music? Nature? A warm bath? It’s your routine, so do anything you can to help yourself relax.

Ways to wind down before bedtime

Go for a walk

Take a relaxing walk through the neighborhood. Just walk with no destination in mind, just leisurely walk (no speed walking allowed) down the sidewalk. In this manner, take in your environment. Have you noticed the beautiful daffodils growing in the yard next door? Does the establishment on the other side of the street have a mural painted on the wall? Look for details you wouldn’t ordinarily notice, let them relax you.

Wash up

Take a nice warm bath or shower. This is not a time for cleaning yourself, this is a time to let the hot water surround you and help you feel drowsy. Take a book in that bath. Studies show that reading a physical (paper) book can help with drowsiness (unless it becomes too interesting, but that is a whole different problem).

Meditation

A great tool for relaxation is meditation. The beauty is that you can do it anywhere. You can lay in your bed and concentrate solely on your breathing. Breathe deeply in through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Clear your mind. Send the baby’s sweet potato tornado out of your head. It is over. Breathe through it. 

It might help to think of one feature, in particular, to concentrate on while you are working on emptying your mind. Countless people find colors to be soothing, so try to concentrate on nothing but colors as you lay in bed. What are the different colors found in your bedroom? Maybe try for just one color. Blue is a relaxing color, so concentrate on all of the blue details. Do you want to take it one step further? Count the blue details while you look for them.

Listen to some soft music. There was an article done not too long ago that talks about the best ways to sleep while wearing headphones. Therefore, you might find some helpful tips there. But first, what type of music relaxes you the best? Whether you fall asleep best to classical numbers or death metal, the key is to listen to them at a low volume. The idea is to lull yourself into sleep, not participate in an individual concert.

Relaxing

What relaxation techniques can you think of? Is there something that relaxes you more than anything else? Put it in your nighttime routine. A routine doesn’t need to involve hours if you only have five minutes to relax before you need to be asleep, use them wisely. It is your routine, so, build it for your best results.

Summary

Sometimes, hunger occurs at inconvenient moments. Have you ever been sitting in a quiet classroom or your cubicle when your stomach suddenly growls extremely loud? This can also happen at night too, so take advantage of the ideas in this article and try to sleep well tonight. You never know, the tips listed here may also keep that growling stomach out of the classroom or cubicle as well. Save yourself the embarrassment and the discomfort caused by a grumbly stomach.

Harris

Hello, I'm Harris. For many years, I have no problems with sleeping but as I become older, I find sometimes sleeping well can be a challenge. This website is a collection of questions I have had wondered once and seek out answer on the web or from my doctors. As I accumulate more information about sleeping I will post them here. Hope you find these articles helpful. Thank you!

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