Sugary snacks can make for a tasty treat — that's why most of us crave them from time to time. But craving sugar in the morning could mean that there's more than just a run-of-the-mill desire for sweets at play.
To help you get to the bottom of strangely timed sugar urges, here are the common reasons why you wake up craving sugar in the morning or the middle of the night.
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1. You Have Low Blood Sugar
One possible reason why you can crave sugar in the morning is that you have low blood sugar levels, or hypoglycemia, according to the Cleveland Clinic. This is especially common among people who have diabetes, although anyone can experience it. You have hypoglycemia if your blood sugar levels drop below 70 milligrams per deciliter if you have diabetes, or 55 milligrams per deciliter if you don't.
Besides feeling hungry, other symptoms include:
- Sweating and chills
- Fast heart rate
- Tingling or numbness in your lips, tongue or cheeks
This may also be the reason why you wake up in the middle of the night craving sweets — hypoglycemia can occur while you sleep, per the Cleveland Clinic.
Fix it: If you wake up craving sugar due to hypoglycemia, you need to address your condition right away, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Eating or drinking sugar or carbohydrates (like a small piece of fruit, half a cup of regular soda or a tablespoon of honey or syrup) can help bring your blood sugar levels back into balance.
If you have diabetes, this could be the reason why you crave sweets in the morning or wake up in the middle of the night craving sugar. If this happens to you regularly, visit your doctor to determine the best way to keep your blood sugar levels stable overnight.
2. It's a Habit
If you're still craving sugar in the morning despite having normal blood sugar levels, your desire for something sweet could be the result of your dietary habits.
Eating sugary processed foods (think baked goods, soda and sweetened cereals) releases chemicals in your brain that keep you coming back for more, according to the Cleveland Clinic. If you regularly incorporate these foods into your diet, your body develops a tolerance — meaning you want a sugar fix more and more often. And it's these cravings that could be the reason why you want sugar when you wake up from a nap.
Fix it: If eating too much sugar is the reason why you wake up craving sweets, your best bet is to cut back on sugary processed foods. As you limit sugar, make sure to incorporate a balance of fibrous carbohydrates, lean protein and beneficial fats into your everyday diet, per the Cleveland Clinic.
This doesn't mean you have to cut out sweets entirely, though — the key here is eating them in moderation.
According to the American Heart Association, adults should only have 6 to 9 teaspoons of added sugar per day.
3. You're Not Eating Enough
If you've gone too long without eating, your body will crave quick energy in the form of sugar and processed carbs, according to the Cleveland Clinic. For example, if you skipped dinner, that might be why you crave sweets in the middle of the night or when you wake up.
Fix it: To avoid waking up in the middle of the night to eat sweets, make sure you stay fueled throughout the day.
If you have a consistent eating schedule and are still waking up with sugar cravings, having a light snack before bed (like Greek yogurt, nut butter or vegetables with hummus) could help, per the Cleveland Clinic. Just make sure to avoid eating a heavy meal before bedtime.
4. You're Stressed
Ever lay awake at night replaying an embarrassing moment or stressing about tomorrow's work day? Well, this could be the reason why you crave sugar in the middle of the night or when you wake up.
According to a June 2015 study in the Journal of Health Psychology, stress is linked to cravings for sugary, fatty and carbohydrate-rich foods. In other words, you may be more in the mood for sweets when you're feeling anxious.
Fix it: If you're waking up craving sugar due to stress, relieving that stress can be easier said than done. Per the Mayo Clinic, though, some stress-relief techniques to try include:
- Eating a balanced diet
- Connecting with loved ones
- Getting enough sleep
5. You're Not Getting Enough Sleep
Similarly, another reason why you crave sugar after a nap or overnight is that you're not sleeping enough. Indeed, a February 2014 study in Nature Communications linked sleep deprivation to increased desire for sugary, salty and starchy foods.
So if you wake up craving sugar in the morning, make note of whether or not you got the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-recommended minimum of seven hours of sleep per night (for adults).
Fix it: According to the CDC, practicing good sleep hygiene can help you get enough rest (and potentially prevent craving soda or other sweets in the middle of the night). You can do this by:
- Sleeping in a cool, dark, quiet room
- Following a consistent sleep schedule
- Limiting screen time before bed
- Avoiding meals, caffeine and alcohol before bed
- Cleveland Clinic: "Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar)"
- Cleveland Clinic: "3 Reasons You Crave Sweet or Salty Foods"
- American Heart Association: "How much sugar is too much?"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Is Eating Before Bed Bad for You?"
- Journal of Health Psychology: "Food cravings mediate the relationship between chronic stress and body mass index"
- Mayo Clinic: "Stress relievers: Tips to tame stress"
- Nature Communications: "The impact of sleep deprivation on food desire in the human brain"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Tips for Better Sleep"
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