Sleep + Health: 5 Ways to Curb Cravings

Chicago-based nutritionist Maya Bach discusses the foods and habits to help feel good throughout the day and night. We're partnering with her for a Chicago Wellness event so we're delighted she's offering some actionable advice to our Pillow Talk readers! 
vegetables and fruits scattered on white background
Talk to me about your sleep is one of the questions I ask my nutrition clients. I help women who may be finding it difficult to eat well or whore struggling with their weight as a result of a new job or life change. This question gives me insight into a key area to target.
While some say, Great! I get 8 – 9 hours a night, many will say, Ok; not great. What we eat, and drink, can impact the quality of our sleep. And visa-versa; how well we sleep can influence our food choices the next day.

Two women sitting cross-legged (as if meditating) smiling at each other

Since leptin and ghrelin, hormones that regulate our appetite, shift during sleep, not getting enough zzzs can create an imbalance. Studies show that less sleep is associated with low levels of leptin, an appetite suppressor AND high levels of ghrelin, an appetite stimulant, particularly driving our craving for calorie-dense, carbohydrate-rich foods. Lets take a look at five different ways we can support our health by curbing cravings.
  1.      FILL UP ON FIBER

Fiber helps keep you fuller for longer by slowing the rate at which the stomach empties. Berries, beans, nuts, seeds and oatmeal are all great sources. Opt for fruits and vegetables that have a skin (apple, berries) vs. a peel (banana, orange) for an extra fiber boost.

Two bowls of oatmeal with fruit (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and kiwi)

Use fresh berries instead of jam, add toasted rolled oats into soups or salads ask for ‘double veggies’ when ordering a pizza.


Protein takes more energy for us to breakdown than refined carbohydrates, helping us to feel full and keep our hunger at bay. Depending on activity level and body composition, we need ~0.8 grams/kg of protein/day, meaning a 150 lb person needs ~54 grams per day. Power up with plant-based proteins like edamame, hemp seeds, tofu and soymilk for a bonus boost of anti-inflammatory foods.

Close up of person cooking in a pan

While giving food flavor, sodium stimulates our appetite and masks thirst, encouraging us to eat more and drink less water. Top sources include bread, packaged foods, fast food, cured meats and canned goods.
Look for “low sodium” or “no sodium added,” products, dilute salty dips or spreads by blending in white beans, ask for light dressing or sauce when dining out and include potassium-rich foods like bananas, spinach and lentils to help offset sodium in the body.

Close up of someone pouring salt on to-go container of fries next to milkshake


When we go for a period of time without eating, ghrelin, our hunger-stimulating hormone, starts to kick in. Secreted mainly from the stomach lining, it signals our brain that it's time to eat. Ghrelin works on a cycle; levels build before we eat and drop after a meal. Eating consistently throughout the day will help to stabilize hunger levels.


Bundle of celery or a bag of chips? One of the reasons why we give into cravings is that these foods are convenient, easy to grab and tasty. Start stocking your fridge with handy, healthy snacks like whole fruit, raw nuts, hummus and veggie sticks. Precut produce and store in the center of the fridge to make them easy to grab-and-go. Place them near hummus, a dip or nut butter to make snacking simple. Portion out nuts and other bulk items into single servings to help keep calories in check.

Inside of fridge with a shoe on the middle shelf


  1. Kim, T. W., Jeong, J. H., & Hong, S. C.  The impact of sleep and circadian disturbance on hormones and metabolism. International journal of endocrinology, 2015, 591729.
  2. Taheri S, Lin L, Austin D, et al. Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin, elevated ghrelin, and increased body mass index (BMI). Sleep. 2004, 27:A146-A147.