Ever find yourself staring at the fridge at night wondering, “why do I crave sweets at night?”
It’s been a long day and you’re tempted to just go to bed. But, hunger pangs have other ideas and you’re craving something sweet!
Why do we crave sweets at night? Like when you go to bed at night, do you find yourself craving sweets? You’re not alone.
As it turns out, there are many reasons why people crave sweets after dark. These range from simple things like hunger to sleep deprivation.
More complex reasons include stress and nutrient deficiencies.
In this article we will explore 8 core reasons for sugar cravings at night.
We’ll also provide some natural remedies that can reduce your sugar cravings before they take over your life!
1 – Hungry During Day
This is the most common mistake and usually the #1 cause you’re craving sugar at night.
You haven’t eaten enough food during the day!
It’s the main reason why people crave sweets at night – because they haven’t eaten anything, or enough, all day.
For example, you are skipping breakfast, or only doing a hastily put together breakfast.
- A lame bowl of cereal
- One muffin with coffee
- Skip entirely
You also are probably not eating enough food at other times as well.
- Just a salad for lunch
- Working through lunch without eating
- Not eating snacks with protein throughout the day
Not getting enough nutrition during the day happens to many people. It’s easy to forget to eat when you have work, family and friends taking up your time.
What happens when you don’t eat enough during the day though?
Well … you get a blood sugar crash.
And blood sugar crash is WHY you crave sugar at night.
All the other reasons listed on this post all come back to low blood sugar.
2 – Low Blood Sugar (Main Reason!)
One of the most common reasons that you wake up in the middle of night wanting something sweet is due to low blood sugar during the day.
In one study, for example, sleep researchers with the US National Library of Medicine monitored clients’ blood sugar levels while they slept.
When the clients woke up in the middle of the night, the sleep researchers were able to clearly identify the problem being crashing blood sugar levels.
When clients suddenly woke up with sweet cravings at night, their blood sugar levels had fallen off the cliff.
Why do crashing blood sugar levels wake you up at night?
When your blood sugar levels are low, your emotional brain turns on.
Your emotional brain is what I call your “Survival Brain”.
Your survival brain thinks you’re running out of fuel, so it wakes you up and gives you food cravings for something sweet.
Sweet foods are easily digested into fuel, so that’s why your brain goes for sweets, instead of something else like chicken that takes longer to digest.
But just eating sweet foods actually makes things worse!
3 – Too Many Carbs
Sweet foods are usually carbs, and carbs are tricky. They temporarily make you feel full and satisfied. Plus they taste good!
Who doesn’t like a bowl of sugary cereal?
But then a few hours later you’re driving on empty and scouring the shelves for more quick energy.
Low blood sugar!
Now I also don’t want to demonize carbs and processed foods like fast food.
Eating carbs and processed foods are an important source of energy and they don’t deserve to be demonized like some diets do.
But too many nightly carby meals, especially when you’ve already eaten dinner earlier, can lead to those sugar cravings that start creeping up in the evening.
Your belly needs sustenance! Your stomach needs something solid!
Otherwise you’ll wake up at night starving craving sweets like a hungry coyote!
Here’s the science why:
4 – Not Enough Protein And Fat
You can easily eat a lot of calories in one sitting but then have these calories be burned up and left hungry again by the next meal!
You eat a big muffin for breakfast. You eat a few big slices of pizza for lunch. But still you get these cravings for sweets. What then?
Oftentimes, a craving for sweets is because you are eating too many carbs and not enough protein or fat.
Here’s how you can think about carbs versus protein and fat.
- Carbs are like wood in a fire: they get ‘burned’ up and turned into calorie energy quickly.
- Protein and fat are like charcoal in a fire: they burn slowly for hours
Now what happens when you eat carbs, and then ‘burn’ through all your carbs very quickly?
You get a blood sugar spike and then a blood sugar crash.
Why am I suddenly craving sweets?
This blood sugar crash explains why you suddenly start to crave sweets.
Again, you are low on energy, even though it might seem like you just ate.
Remember that carbs are like fire. They burn up quickly.
Here are some common carb sources:
- White bread / muffins / pasta / pizza
- Juices / soda
- Candy / sweets / coffee creamers
- Most protein bars
So when you primarily eat these carb sources, and don’t get enough protein or fat, then you are left with sugar crashes.
And again, as explained above, if your body is low on energy then it will make you crave foods to get it more energy.
Since sugar burns up quickly, this is why you suddenly start to crave sweets.
Your body’s blood sugar is suddenly low on energy and your body wants to eat again.
How To Get Enough Nutrition During The Day
- Make sure you are getting a healthy balance of protein, fat and carbs, which your body needs to function properly
- Eat enough food in the morning so you don’t get hungry later on
- Avoid eating too many carbs at one time (e.g., pasta for the whole meal)
- Include protein in every meal so you don’t crave sweets later on
Breakfast is the key strategy to take away here. If you are craving sweets at night, start out with a huge breakfast and see what happens.
Focus on protein and healthy fats for breakfast, as these will keep you fuller longer. Protein helps with weight loss too!
Remember, you don’t get enough sustenance during the day than at night you will compensate!
More on nutrition at the bottom of this post!
5 – Dehydration
To feel satisfied, the brain needs a certain level of blood sugar.
When you don’t drink enough water during the day, your body pulls fluid from inside itself and dehydrates you.
Since your brain requires water to function and send electrical signals this can make it difficult for your brain to send signals to tell you when it’s time to stop eating or drinking something sweet.
Many times people eat food because they crave the water in the food! It sounds crazy but even fast foods have water in them.
So if you have sweet cravings at night, then think back towards how much water you had over the past few hours.
If you’re feeling thirsty or realize you haven’t had water since who knows when, drink up.
Water hydrates and helps balance out electrolytes in the body. This is helpful if someone is experiencing cravings related to dehydration.
Alcohol also dehydrates the body, so if you want to eat more than usual at nighttime then be sure not to mix in any alcohol.
Making sure your fluid intake is appropriate during the day will help with these sugar cravings!
How To Hydrate During The Day
- Drink at least eight glasses of water a day.
- If you’re thirsty, drink!
- Whenever you have a meal or snack have a glass of water. This way you can remember more easily!
These tips will help to keep your sugar cravings away during the evening hours or anytime that you may have them.
6 – Too Much Stress
Too much stress is bad.
But most of the time people living in modern society deal with something called chronic stress.
Chronic stress is where you are moderately stressed out, but not usually overwhelmed.
For example, being available for email and text notifications at all hours of the day is unpredictable and slightly stressful.
All this stress adds up, and even worse, we often are accustomed to this level of stress and don’t even notice it!
This is why chronic stress is also hidden stress. It’s there and impacting you, but not to the point where you consciously notice this stress.
Thus, chronic stress remains hidden. And then at night it rears it’s head!
Or … you just keep tossing in turning at night … only to finally get so desperate your mind turns to sweet cravings to simply get out of having to toss and turn yet another time!
Why Stress Cortisol Leads to Cravings At Night
Cortisol blocks hunger and cravings and instead allows us to keep pushing to finish that workload!
So when you finally sit down to dinner at the end of a stressful day, your body’s response is: Why does this person want something in my belly right now?
I’m not ready for food yet. Ahhhhhh!!
And then later on at night when your blood sugar goes low, the survival part of your brain goes:
What if there isn’t enough food? I need to make sure that every cell in my brain and body has so many calories that must come in through my mouth!
Your stress hormones block your “I’m hungry” signal during the day because deep inside your brain believes that these deadlines are more important than eating.
Until … You crash into bed with no energy and your blood sugar levels are low.
How To Reduce Stress
- Take time for yourself! Taking breaks throughout the day is important, even if just for a few minutes.
- Take walking meetings on your phone to save time while getting those endorphins flowing 🙂
- Cut down the number of commitments you have. You don’t need to say yes every time somebody asks you to do something, and if it’s a task that doesn’t feel important enough, then just say no
- Just realize chronic stress exists and it’s impacting you. You need to take time during the day to switch off stressful mode and into relaxation mode. This is an important mindset to have!
- Learn meditation! The simple practice of deep breathing or mindfulness will change your life!
7 – Lack of Sleep
Of course, if you’re sleeping poorly and waking up in the middle of the night, this will contribute to midnight snacking too!
This is because if you don’t sleep well, your blood sugar levels will also take a hit.
Your cortisol has been pumping all night as you experience the physical effects of stress and worry from tossing and turning.
Plus, the next day you’re super tired, which makes you more on edge.
In fact research shows that even one sleepless night can have dramatic impacts on our hormones and appetite control!
So next time you’re having trouble sleeping, remember that it’s not just about getting more hours under your belt.
It’s also important to make sure you are able to sleep well!
Sleeping is critical for blood sugar levels and controlling hunger hormones!
Cravings for sugar dramatically increase on a poor night of sleep!
A lack of sleep will throw off your hormones and make your brain think sweet foods are more ‘valuable’ than they really are.
It’s recommended that adults get around seven to eight hours of sleep every day.
I’m sure you’ve heard this statistic before so now it’s time to get honest with yourself. How many hours of sleep are you getting a night on average?
Don’t think you are one of the few people that can survive on less than 6 hours of sleep!
Yes, it’s true that some people like Barack Obama don’t need much sleep. But 95% of people do need 7-8 hours of sleep and it’s best to assume you’re one of them!
If you have a habit of burning both ends of the candle, then simply get a bunch of rest one day and see if your sugar craving goes down too.
If you’re wondering about ‘why do I crave sweets at night’, then definitely pay attention to your sleep patterns!
How To Get More Sleep!
- No caffeine after 12pm (noon)
- Have a bedtime routine – set an alarm, read before going to sleep, have nap time during the day if possible.
- Go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time every morning (regardless of what day it is)
- Turn off the screen! Research shows screens interfere with your melatonin production which is your brain’s natural “sleep hormone.”
Getting more sleep is really important because otherwise you start off the next day with low willpower!
8 – Loss of Willpower in evening
We spend our days using up mental strength and willpower.
By the time evening rolls around, we’ve spent so much of our energy that it feels like there’s none left to actually cook something nutritious and nourishing.
So many people wake up at night wanting something sweet because they used all their willpower during the day and had no energy left to prepare a balanced meal.
Have you ever come home from work totally exhausted and stressed out?
Then your stress and racing mind, along with general fatigue, blocks out your hunger?
In this state, it feels like you have zero energy to make a nutritious meal. Eventually you pass out until …
Your blood levels crash.
Consequently, your only option seems to be opening the freezer and eating whatever’s inside.
With these 7 reasons above now listed, let’s talk about how to stop cravings for sugar in the middle of the night.
How Do I Stop Sugar Cravings at Night?
Here are some tips to stop craving late night sweets!
For Blood Sugar Levels:
- Eat more during the day and less at night -Eat real nutritious meals with protein, vegetables and healthy carbs (like sweet potatoes)
- Don’t wait until you feel hungry to eat
- Prepare food ahead of time so it’s ready when you don’t have energy or motivation!
For loss of willpower:
- See if you can go on a walk while taking a phone call (my #1 tip!)
- Delegate tasks so you don’t have to do everything yourself
- Put your phone in another room when you get home from work!
- Practice self-compassion so that you don’t feel like everything depends on you
- Prioritize sleep! Even if it’s just for one night, make sure you get a good night’s rest
- Schedule time to relax or take care of yourself without feeling guilty. You deserve to feel better!
- Practice meditation and mindfulness techniques that help you during the day too. Why not start now?
If you’re not sleeping well then work on getting better sleep with these late night tips:
- get dark shades for your room
- switch off all screens an hour before bedtime
- try a relaxing bath or reading instead of scrolling through social media
- try eating earlier so that there is more time between your last meal and getting into bed
What Should I Eat When I Crave Sugar?
If you are craving sugary sweets, what I suggest you do is try having something sugary but slightly more fulfilling first:
- Chocolate protein bar
If you instead have candy or another soda, you’ll just end up in the same spot where you are now.
And we all know that avoiding sugar entirely probably isn’t the long-term solution either. You’ll just end up thinking about and craving sugar until you give in and go eat some.
But by having something sugary with a little more “substance” first, you give your tongue that craving for sweets that it desires.
You also give your body the other type of fuel that lasts longer.
Longer-term, the key is to make sure you find a variety of foods high in fiber and high in protein like:
- Legumes, nuts, beans
- Whole grain carbs
- Healthy fats, olive oil
These are foods that have energy that burns slowly, instead of rapidly like sugar.
Eat good meals on a regular basis with these, including a healthy snack.
Before we wrap up, let me mention vitamin deficiencies, since some people think this can be behind their cravings. There’s a lot written elsewhere about vitamin deficiencies, so the key point I want to make is:
There is no single, specific vitamin deficiency that causes sugar cravings.
Rather, it’s a deficiency in whole foods that burn slowly.
I hope this makes sense.
If you are having sugar cravings, the best way to fight them is to:
- Indulge your sweet tooth with a healthier, sugary treat
- Eat a variety of healthy foods before you get to the point of high craving
- Take plenty of time for sleep
- Take time throughout the day to find stress relief
Do vitamin deficiencies cause sugar cravings?
I know it’s tempting to say your sugar cravings are caused by a vitamin deficiency.
Wouldn’t it be nice and easy if I just told you your sugar cravings were all caused by lacking Vitamin C?
If Vitamin C was the cause of your sugar cravings, all you would need is more oranges.
Nice and simple and easy to fix!
Unfortunately, sugar cravings are complex.
Normally in terms of weight loss you’re given a simple tool like a diet. But then this diet ends up being terrible for your long term health and weight.
Same thing with vitamin deficiency. It’s more holistic than missing vitamins.
A combination of stress, not knowing how to handle stress, and not being connected to your body is causing your blood sugar levels to wildly fluctuate.
Is craving sweets a sign of diabetes? No!
Craving sweets is primarily combination of:
- Lacking a variety of foods, eating too many carbs and sweets
- Blood sugar crashes
- Other emotional reasons
I hope this is clear.
Craving sweets is not a sign of diabetes or anything else other than the reasons listed above.
While diabetes is related to your blood sugar levels, sugar cravings are not a sign of diabetes.
Now let’s briefly explore how to start going about the process to end these powerful cravings for sweet foods.
Do I Crave Sugar All The Time Because Sugar Is Addictive?
Summary – Why do I crave sweets at night?
Sugar cravings in the late evening are signs of deficiency of some sort.
- Food deficient
- Water deficient
- Relaxation time deficient
- Protein deficient
- Sleep deficient
Recap: How can I stop sugar cravings late at night?
- Avoid eating too much sugar and refined carbohydrates.
- Eat more protein, vegetables and healthy fats with each meal.
- Drink plenty of water before bedtime to avoid dehydration from not drinking enough throughout the day.
- Turn off screens at least an hour before going to sleep.
- Practice relaxation techniques like meditation or deep breathing to reduce stress levels as well as anxiety/depression symptoms.
- Sleep better by practicing the tips listed above!
What if I still have a sugar craving?
The best thing you can do is drink plenty of water.
But the truth is, you’re still probably going to have some cravings for sweets and that’s ok!
It’s ok for you to have a cookie or another small treat if you can’t sleep or feel stressed.
We don’t want to be eating tons of cookies and lots of treats every night, but you can definitely have some sweets and not feel guilty.
The key is to work on the underlying factors of deficiency we’ve talked about in this article.
Get more sleep, find ways to reduce stress, start off with a huge breakfast and get lots of protein during the day.
Turn off those lights and get some shut eye.
Your sleep cravings will steadily decrease the more you can target the underlying deficiencies and just take it one day at a time. 🙂