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 5 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 – Not Enough Food During The Day
This is the most common mistake and usually the #1 reason 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.
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.
Throw in a dash of stress and take away some hours of sleep, and you have anb even more perfect recipe for a sweet tooth at night!
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!
For more info on getting enough nutrition, see my beginner post here ‘Two Steps to Start Intuitive Eating‘, or watch the video below for more info.
2 – 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.
3 – Too Much Hidden 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.
How To Reduce Hidden 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!
4 – Filling Up On Carbs
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.
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.
In our culture, instead of cutting out processed foods, it’s better to learn to live with processed foods in moderation.
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!
Think about your favorite wholesome restaurant, even something like Chipotle, which happens to be my favorite fast food restaurant.
I love Chipotle! When I eat Chipotle, I am FILLED UP for a long time!
To stave off sugar cravings you absolutely need to have at least two good meals per day that FILL you UP. And if you’re just eating crappy carb foods then you’ll end up craving dark chocolate and other sugary food in the evening.
How To Stop Relying On Carbs
- Try to make carbs about 50% of what you eat and let the other 50% come from protein, fat, or vegetables.
- Switch to complex carbs like whole grains, beans and cereals instead of processed snack foods.
- If you’re craving between meals, make sure you have a healthy snack that includes protein or fiber. This way your body can better use those food nutrients for energy rather than turning them into sugar.
- And finally don’t forget to drink plenty of water 😉
5 – Lack 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.
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.”
Recap: 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 should I eat when I crave sweets at night but am concerned about my blood sugar levels?
If you do crave sweets at midnight then here’s what you should eat.
You should eat vegetables with some protein. This will give you the nutrients and fiber your body needs to help stabilize blood sugar levels, making it easier to avoid a sweet crave!
Try eating cheese, nuts or hard boiled eggs for protein. You can try adding carrots, celery sticks, tomatoes, broccoli or cauliflower onto your plate for the veggies.
If that doesn’t work then try almond butter on toast. Almond butter provides healthy fats which can be soothing when people feel like they’re getting hungry at evening time.
For more info on blood sugar levels, see this Mayo Clinic post on diabetes, blood sugar levels and treatment.
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. 🙂