Having a regular and healthy lifestyle is important for our body’s proper functioning. Providing the body with nutrition, exercise and good sleep is the key to health! When something or the other from these factors fluctuate, you can see the effects in your health and wellbeing, one such being midnight cravings. Surprised? Read on as Shweta Shah, Chief Nutritionist at Fitza – Your Digital Wellness Buddy, helps us understand this seemingly normal phenomenon.
“Midnight cravings are cravings you get at the odd hour when you should be actually sleeping. Now the problem with them is that they cause sleep disturbances as you are hungry and can’t sleep. Your blood sugar levels spike up, and you feel acidic or heartburn the next day. You start gaining weight which in turn, leads to obesity in the long run,” says Shah. The foods people majorly crave are sugar loaded or spice loaded, which would commonly fall in the junk food category. You don’t usually have the time or energy to make something healthy in those hours, and the first thing you can quickly prepare is instant noodles or you can snack on a packet of chips or cookies!
So, how do we know when the cravings are getting serious? Shah replies, “Even the duration or the period of time you have been snacking for at midnight can be an important factor in determining how serious the problem could actually be. For instance, craving food once in a while during the night is normal, which indicates you might have been hungry through the day. So, your body needs food to put you to proper sleep.” Note that if you have cravings at midnight every or every other day, it can indicate an underlying cause. The cause can be something bigger than just hunger pangs; maybe you need to make some alterations in your lifestyle to stop them.
This brings us to the causes for midnight cravings. Mostly, there is never one reason for midnight cravings, but Shah says your hunger pangs can be the result of one of below factors or a combination of them.
- Poor Nutrition: Maybe you are not eating nutritious food during the day that will help you stay full. When you are not satiated, you are bound to snack on junk food at odd hours. Try following a proper diet and add more nutritious foods to your daily routine.
- Lack Of Satisfaction From Meals: Oftentimes, you may eat nutritious food and healthy meals but never get satisfied. To feel happy, 80:20 ratio is the rule – eat 80 per cent nutritious food, and the rest 20 per cent can be your favourite food items so that you stay satisfied and avoid bingeing at nights. But remember, moderation is the key!
- Zero Exercise: Not exercising during the day makes you less tired and unable to sleep, and when you are unable to sleep, you binge! Exercising even promotes healthy eating habits, so give it a try.
- Bad Sleep Schedule: Maybe you are eating right during the day, but not getting enough sleep as you tend to binge-watch shows and movies late into the night. If this is the case, your body probably doesn’t know what to do except eat mindlessly. So get your circadian rhythm going and aim to get proper rest.
- Work Stress: A poor work schedule can lead to stress, often leading to binge-eating or you completely foregoing your meals. When you don’t eat right at work, you are likely to indulge at night; try managing your stress so this does not happen.
- Hormonal Imbalances: These can be caused due to any or all of the above causes. Get started with a healthy lifestyle by addressing these concerns and you’ll resolve hormonal imbalance and subsequent bingeing.
Shah adds that having a healthy and filling dinner is a must to put an end to your midnight cravings. “Our body is on rest and repair mode during the night, and when you eat something at that time, it switches to digesting food, leaving it no time to repair or have restful sleep. This, you feel tired the next day and keep following the same cycle,” she says.
You can also start with switching to healthier midnight snacks. “Anything that comes out of a packet is a strict no! So avoid chocolates, instant noodles, chips, biscuits, brownies, etc,” suggests Shah. Listing better options foods you can have to purge your cravings, she says, “Berries, nuts, a spoonful of peanut butter, sprouts bhel, quinoa salad, peanut salad, skimmed yoghurt, zucchini noodles, sauteed vegetables, vegetable or paneer cutlets, boiled or scrambled eggs, whey smoothie, whole grain crackers, makhanas, popcorn, carrots, roasted gram are safer options to binge on at midnight. You can even quickly prepare a warm soup that will help you sleep.”
Another great idea is to save leftover during dinners if you know you are going to work late at night and will need something to snack on later. “A quick chapati wrap with vegetables is way better than processed food. A bonus tip: Have a glass of warm turmeric milk before you go to bed to stop cravings and also enjoy the benefits of a great sleep,” says Shah.
Top Five Reasons For Midnight Cravings
Lacking in nutrition
Taking heavy meals is pointless if the food you’re eating is lacking in nutrition. Your body will eventually become hungry. Eating a lot of carbs and sugar is unhealthy since it depletes your body of critical fibres, proteins, and healthy fats. Consumption of important fibres can help to stabilise blood sugar levels, allowing you to feel fuller for longer.
Changes in Hormone
There are a variety of hormonal changes that might create midnight cravings. When hormones are out of balance, the body wants sugar and other processed meals. Stress, sadness, and anxiety are all psychological factors that might affect this.
Night Eating Syndrome
Some people often have lesser levels of hunger in the morning and desire more food in the evening. They also have insomnia, which makes sleeping difficult. It happens because the body’s format is different, with minimal hunger in the morning and substantially larger intake at night. Obesity and other weight-gain problems might happen as an outcome of this.
Irregular Diet Routine
It can help to keep blood sugar levels stable throughout the day and prevent midnight hunger cravings. If you don’t take care of your body and its proper nutrition intake, you’ll have late-night cravings. As a result, it is always preferable to avoid unhealthy behaviours and instead adopt healthier ones.
When hormones are out of balance, the body craves sugar and other processed meals. Stress, periods, sadness, and anxiety are all psychological factors that might affect this.