The Science Behind the Midnight Snack

We’ve all been there, that sudden craving when the clock strikes 12 for something sweet or salty to munch on. These unhealthy foods that you avoid all day somehow become so alluring at night. But why?

Using data from its users, Jawbone released information about their users' eating habits. The findings showed that most people craved sugary and fatty foods from midnight until 4am.

Most common late night foods: ice cream, french fries and cake.

The Science

The hormone cortisol is responsible for telling the liver when and when not to release sugar into the blood stream. As we wind down in the evening, our cortisol levels decrease, telling our bodies that it’s time for some shut-eye. However, when we stay awake we make up for this lack of energy by eating high- fat and sugary foods. 

Another culprit for late night cravings is the hormone leptin. This hormone gives us that satisfied feeling after we’ve eaten, but when we are tired our bodies produce less of it allowing us to consume more than we normally would.

A third reason as found in a study conducted in 2012 showed that the parts of the brain in charge of decision-making become less active when the body is sleep deprived, resulting in less healthy food choices. 

So what’s the solution?

Sleep!! Lack of sleep and by extension energy is the main driver of midnight snacking. If you want to avoid packing on the extra calories late at night make sure you get enough shuteye.