Waking up hungry at night from time to time isn’t something you should necessarily worry about, but it has to be taken care of if you wake up hungry every night. If you wake up feeling very hungry in the middle of the night very often, then you might need to change your daytime eating patterns. Only in rare cases, you might have a medical condition known as night eating syndrome (NES), but for most people, waking up with growling stomach during the night means you aren’t eating well during day time. Your body is suppossed to sleep during night without needing sustenance, and making a few changes to your daily habits will help you get good sound sleep without any midnight snack.
Below listed are the reasons people wake up feeling hungry in the middle of the night.
1. Eating Habits
Sleeping empty stomach at night leads to discomfort and possibly waking up during the night. Your digestive system slows down while you are asleep, but the growling and hunger pangs of an empty stomach can disrupt your sleep. However, eating a heavy meal just before sleep also can cause discomfort. Eating a light bedtime snack that won’t give you indigestion and disturb your sleep.
A 200-calorie meal that contains complex carbohydrates and protein is ideal, try having cereals with soy milk, bread with peanut butter, or fruit and cheese and including fiber in your evening meal or nighttime snacks can also help. Fiber fills your stomach and digests more slowly, so you feel full longer. In general if you eat well-balanced moderate meals and snacks throughout the day you shouldn’t wake up in the middle of the night . Don’t let yourself be very hungry before eating, and don’t stuff your stomach and stop eating when you’re satisfied.
And Also, if you don’t eat enough during the day, or if you eat at the wrong times, you might not have enough calories to sustain your body while you’re asleep. For example, if you eat dinner early, you’re more likely to wake up hungry before breakfast.
2. Changes in Blood Sugar
Changes in blood sugar level can cause you to wake up hungry in the middle of the night. This can occur if you have a poor diet habits. For example, eating an evening meal containing large amount of refined carbohydrates can causes a quick spike in blood sugar, which is then followed by a drop in blood sugar level, which can leave you feeling hungry in the middle of the night. If your dinner includes vegetables, fruits, fiber and protein which promote a more steady blood sugar level, reduces the risk of feeling hungry before breakfast. If you have your breakfast within 90 mins after getting up and eat every 5 hours throughout the day you can eliminate the blood sugar level fluctuations.
3. Night Eating Syndrome
Night eating syndrome (NES) is an eating disorder, characterized by a delayed circadian pattern of food intake. People affected by NES, wake up with extreme hunger pangs. They consume at least 25% of their everyday calories after dinner or awake and eat in the middle of the night at least 3 times a week. The syndrome is related to mood disorders, eating disorders and disrupted sleep patterns. People with NES may eat very little during the day or skip meals regularly and might feel depressed, or stressed out, anxious or lethargic. In few cases, NES involves behaviour similar to sleepwalking with people unaware until someone tells them about it. Consuming serotonin rich foods has been suggested to aid in the treatment of NES.
4. Hormonal Changes
Hunger is controlled by hormones in our body. Ghrelin “the hunger-hormone”is a hormone that makes you feel hungry, and leptin helps you limit your food intake. If your ghrelin and leptin levels become unbalanced somehow, you may feel hungry when you normally would be satiated. For example, Stress can cause hormonal unbalances. Woman’s menstrual cycle can also cause hormonal changes that contribute to the desire to eat late at night.
5. Sleeping Habits and sensory factors
Quality of nighttime rest are influenced by sleep habits. Body’s natural sleep signals are affected by staying up late or going to bed too early. For example, if you go to bed at 9 p.m. every night but often wake at midnight for a snack, try eating your dinner a little later and go to bed at 10 or 10:30 p.m. maintaining a regular sleep schedule also helps your body develop a rhythm of sleep. Uneven sleep timings or going to bed with loud music on or with TV on can lead general insomnia or waking with hunger. Your lifestyle habits may also lead to midnight hunger. For example, if you stay up late i.e hours after dinner you might feel like snacking because it’s been so long since your last meal. If you watch television staying up late, seeing food commercials can also make you feel hungry. Reflecting on the hard day you had might also make you feel hungry.
6. High-caffeine and substance abuse
Consuming high caffeine substances like coffee or chocolate just before sleep often leads to interrupted sleep and increases the chances of waking up hungry in the middle of the night. Caffeine is not only a central nervous system stimulant, but it also speeds up the digestion, which leads to an empty stomach in the middle of the night. Avoid caffeine after 4 p.m. or around 6 hours before bed. Avoid nicotine for the same reason which is another powerful CNS and digestive stimulant. Consumption and abuse of substances like marijuana, cocaine, heroin and other stimulants can also cause hormonal imbalance and lead to late night hunger.