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Why Do We Wake Up Really Hungry In The Morning?

a profile image of TSA author Alex

Written By Alex Petrović

Certified Sleep Consultant

a hungry kid in the morning

29 April 2024 6 min read

Light morning hunger happens almost to everybody, but if you are often experiencing an intense hunger, moments after waking up, it can indicate that you should make a few life-style changes. On the other hand, it can mean that you just have a type of metabolism that rapidly processes food even during the night. In rare cases, morning hunger can be indication of diseases related to digestion, but, it wouldn’t go without other noticeable symptoms.

Intense morning hunger is usually caused by either unhealthy nutrition during the previous day or a poor-quality sleep. Of course, depending on certain other habits that you might have, there can be other causes of strong sensation of hunger that you experience in the early morning. Here we’re going to explain the most common reasons that stand behind your morning hunger.

an image of a man eating a lot

Blood sugar level

Due to the changes in your insulin level you can experience an intense sensation of the hunger in the morning. This doesn’t happen only to people suffering from diabetes, it can also be a temporary consequence of high glucose production in the body.

Foods that cause high glucose levels are carb-based foods. So, if you tend to eat pizza, pasta, bread, potatoes, rice, or similar types of food for late dinner, you may want to stop it. Eating too much carbs can throw your glucose levels out of balance. Try adding more protein to your dinner or go on a temporary low-carb diet.

Poor sleep and morning hunger

Sleeping on an uncomfortable mattress can leave you waking up many times during the night, and this can seriously mess with your metabolism rate. If you get poor sleep many nights in the row, your body can start to perform during sleep almost as it would during the wake time. This means that your insulin production and calorie-burn during the night time can start to resemble the ones during the day time. If your blood sugar rate is normal and you don’t have an unhealthy diet, the reason for your morning hunger can be bad sleep. Treating a sleeping disorder or investing in a better mattress can be solutions for your annoying morning hunger.

Unhealthy diet

Eating to much sweets or snacks that are high in sugar can cause the feeling of hunger early in the morning. These kinds of processed foods are not a good choice for your health in general, so a part from the morning hunger they can have various negative influences on your health.

Sugar and other simple carbs are generally very bad choices for a diet because they don’t actually provide needed nutrients, even though they are high in calories. Instead of eating simple carb-based foods, try eating more of the complex carbs, that you will mostly get from whole foods. By balancing protein and complex carb intake you will satisfy your daily calorie needs in a healthy way. Also, by doing this, you will get rid of early morning cravings. Remember, simple carbs are just a trap, they provide calories but don’t satisfy your nutritional needs.

an image of a man eating fast to get to the work on time

Wrong choice of beverages

Sodas that have zero-sugar labels can play a serious trick on your body. They tend to send a signal to your body that it has just got calories, but those calories actually don’t exist. If you have more zero-sugar sodas during the day or the evening, you may develop a serious feeling of hunger the next morning. Try limiting your intake of these kinds of beverages. They might sound like a healthier choice than sodas packed with sugar, but they are not really good for your body. Switching to herbal teas or natural, homemade juices would be a best choice for you.

Also, one of the causes of morning hunger can be dehydration, so take plenty of fresh water and stick to healthier beverages. Even if you don’t lack on calories, lack of water can make you feel very hungry after just waking up.

Intense late exercise

If you are hitting the gym late in the evening you can wake up pretty hungry in the morning, especially if you’ve been doing weight-lifting. This happens because our muscles still “work” hours after the actual exercise is been finished. Even if you have a nice protein dinner for post-workout recovery, usually it’s not going to be enough. Weight-lifting burns much more calories overtime than cardio training does. This is why it’s best to start your day with a weight-lifting exercise and leave the cardio for the evening. In addition, we wrote about the best workout routines before bed so make sure you check them out.

an image of women working out and doing yoga

If you are not able to hit the gym in the morning because of your packed schedule, try to have two separate protein meals before going to bed, one of them being the protein drink. Also, staying hydrated will help you experience lighter morning hunger. If you are trying to build some muscle you may want to pay attention to your morning hunger, because it is a sign that your body lacks nutrients necessary for a faster recovery.

Now, the last two paragraphs are going to be especially interesting to the ladies. A change of hormone levels in the female body can be the mysterious culprit behind the morning hunger. There are two main reasons why females can suffer from this kind of unpleasantness.

PMS

If your period is just about to kick in you can start experiencing an intense morning hunger. This is completely normal and usually is not a sign of any problem with your health whatsoever. Some women experience intense food craving during the whole day when they are in PMS. Hormone induced cravings come in different forms, some ladies crave specific types of food, such as salty or sweet. Some women experience nausea instead of a craving.

Anyhow, if PMS makes you experience intense hunger in the morning, first, you shouldn’t worry about it, and second, you can ease this symptom with a few diet hacks. Try eating complex carbs in the evening instead of snaking and drink a lot of water during the day. Avoid processed foods and alcohol drinks. Maybe the best solution would be sticking to the whole foods during the PMS, provided that your cravings allow you to.

Pregnancy

For some women, intense food cravings can be one of the early signs of pregnancy. These kind of food related symptoms vary a lot from woman to woman. Some women tend to experience both morning nausea and morning hunger. During the first trimester, all of these symptoms can become very confusing and you may need your doctor’s advice when it comes to nutrition.

If you already had your pregnancy confirmed by your doctor and you’ve been experiencing unusually strong morning hunger, you may need to get your blood sugar checked. But don’t worry, for the most of the women morning hunger is just a typical sign of an early pregnancy that goes away during the second trimester.  

an image of a pregnant woman

Conclusion

To sum up, an intense morning hunger is usually nothing more than a mere unpleasantry. By making a few simple life-style changes you can either ease or get rid of the morning hunger. Just remember to improve your sleeping and to work on your diet. Even if you don’t have demanding exercises that doesn’t mean that you should neglect your nutritional needs. In the case that you have other reasons besides morning hunger to suspect that your blood sugar is out of the order, be sure to visit your doctor.

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About the author

Alex Petrović
Sleep Consultant
A CPD certified Sleep Consultant with more than 2000 hours of research into all the different ways we can get a great night's sleep. As a former insomniac, I know how difficult life can be without a nightly recovery and I love that I get to share everything I've learned with you all. So hopefully we can all sleep soundly!
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