Prevent That Hangry Feeling With These Simple Tips!


It’s 4 o’clock in the afternoon and it feels like forever since you last ate. You’re like an untamed animal, sniffing around for (probably) something sweet to eat. Despite your best intentions to reach for veggie sticks and hummus, you’re on autopilot. You just know they’re not going to satisfy those cravings – nothing and no one can convince you otherwise! The longer you have to wait, the more irritated you’re getting. In fact, you’re well and truly hangry!


So, what’s really going on here?

Hangry might feel like a lack of self-control, but what you’re dealing with right now is some very powerful hunger hormones paired with not enough sleep!

Hunger Hormones

We have two hormones in our body that control our appetite, they are called Leptin and Ghrelin. Ghrelin is a bit of a gremlin – he’s our appetite INCREASER. Ghrelin levels go up in times of hunger and stay down for about 3 hours after a meal. Leptin however, is our hormonal ‘appetite suppressor’ and leptin can help keep the ‘ghrelin’ under control. The problem is, the power of leptin is hindered when we are sleep deprived. So, if you have a rotten night’s sleep, be prepared for your hunger levels to increase!

Will sugar fix me?

A lack of sleep disrupts our adrenal glands and makes us feel exhausted. When this happens we tend to look for energy to pick us up, and that energy is often the sugary kind! It is true that sugar gives us a fast boost, but it is shortly followed by a fast crash and a craving for even more. It pays to be prepared! Instead of reaching for the biscuits, opt for a protein-based snack like nuts or yoghurt to satisfy cravings and keep you fuller for longer.

What about caffeine and alcohol?

If you’re consuming both caffeine and alcohol later in the day, to get you through that 4pm slump, be prepared for a rough night in bed (and for hangry to kick in the next day!) According to the Sleep Health Foundation, the effects of caffeine can last from four to six hours. But, your body needs about 24 hours to completely eliminate it. Some people who consume a lot of caffeine think that it no longer stops them from being able to go to sleep, because they have become immune to this effect. However, research shows that sleep is impaired by caffeine and we would all sleep much better if we try to avoid it in the afternoons. As for alcohol, it may help you nod off quickly – but, it means you will bypass the first stage of REM sleep, affecting your ability to have a restful, undisrupted sleep overall. 

Final thoughts…
So, if you are battling with hangry and afternoon cravings, it may be because you’re not getting enough good sleep. Try and set up some healthy sleep routines to start to normalise your sleeping patterns and rein in those hangry feelings for good!


If you’re struggling with more than just ‘hangry’ and think you need some extra help to get your health and wellbeing on track, visit us here

Lisa Donaldson, APD, M.Nutr&Diet, B.Edu
Lisa is the Lead Dietitian for 12WBT. With a Masters in Nutrition & Dietietics as well as a Bachelor of Education, Lisa is keen to help all 12 Weekers understand how to achieve health for life. Lisa studied Sports Dietetics at the Australian Institute of Sport and has a keen interest in gastrointestinal health. A highly regarded communicator, Lisa is a spokesperson for the Dietitians Association of Australia, the ‘Dietitian in Residence’ at the University of Canberra and a lecturer at the Australian Defence Force Academy. She has also been an expert on ABC Television’s Ask the Dr Series.

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