Ask the expert: Sleeping badly and chocolate cravings
Q. “I find that after a bad night’s sleep, I always want to reach for chocolate. What’s going on?”
– Nicki S, NSW
A. Karissa Woolfe, Healthy Food Guide Accredited Practising Dietitian, responds:
Glad to hear you’re tuning into your body and habits! As well as playing havoc with our hunger hormones, sleep deprivation messes with our minds, triggering us to reach for ‘reward’ foods such as chocolate, explains Healthy Food Guide’s sleep expert, Dr Carmel Harrington.
“The reward centre of your brain is on fire,” she says. “So you yearn for rewards, and we’re not very good at controlling impulses when we’re sleep deprived.”
Dr Harrington says the best way you can overcome this hurdle is to acknowledge when you haven’t slept well, be aware of what your behaviour is like when you’re sleep deprived (e.g. reaching for chocolate) and prioritise good sleep (between seven to nine hours). “It may take a few days to normalise, but the body is very good at doing that,” she says.