When cold weather moves in, do you find yourself cuddling up to more snacks? If so, you’re not alone. It’s been shown that people consume at least a hundred more calories a day during the fall.1 And when you eat more late at night, it can be difficult to get a good night’s sleep.2 Here’s a look at why your appetite grows larger when the days grow shorter and some tips for eating and sleeping better during the fall and winter months.
Why do we eat more during fall? One theory points to biology: less light prompts us to seek out food (especially carbohydrates) and eat it faster—just as we did instinctually during primitive times.1 Another theory looks at opportunity. For many people, fall means holiday parties and being inside with friends and family while it’s cold outside.3 According to this theory, it’s hard to resist grazing when there’s so much comfort food around.3
Whether it’s because of biology or opportunity, people tend to indulge more in fatty, fried, and spicy foods as well as simple carbohydrates like cookies, cakes, and pastries in the fall. These foods can be taxing on your stomach and make it difficult to sleep, especially if eaten late at night. Because autumn is primetime for colds, flu, and congestion, it’s important to keep your immune system strong—and staying strong starts with eating right and sleeping well.
For better sleep, try to eat a lighter meal, earlier. Turkey (as well as chicken and fish), are high in tryptophan, an amino acid that increases serotonin in your body, promoting restful sleep. Pair it with complex carbohydrates like whole-grain breads, cereals, pasta, crackers, and brown rice, which make tryptophan, and hence sleep-encouraging serotonin, more available to the brain. The key is to enjoy the season and everything that goes with it while keeping healthy and sleeping well.