By Aly Walansky
Updated March 15, 2016
© Vintage Images / Alamy

It’s a vicious cycle. We stay up too late, either catching up on work and obligations or binge watching our latest Netflix addiction. We drink too much and eat greasy snacks. The next morning, we overdose on sugar and caffeine to keep us going. And we wonder why we gain weight.

Jawbone, the brand behind the trendy fitness tracker, recently completed a study that researched the relationship between sleep and nutrition. They discovered that those who went to bed at a consistently reasonable hour, earlier than 11 p.m., tended to make better food choices. However, those who stay up into the wee hours of the morning end up drinking more caffeine and alcohol, and eating more processed foods, fats, and sugars than their early-to-bed counterparts.

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"Studies have demonstrated that acute sleep deprivation increases appetite and carbohydrate craving,” says Barbara Phillips, MD, MSPH, FCCP Director of the University of Kentucky Sleep Center. “Whether chronic sleep loss translates into weight gain is less clear. It is likely that people with poor sleep habits also have unhealthy eating and drinking habits.”

As we grow tired after a long day, we lose the motivation to make the right food choices. We then have the tendency to eat out of boredom or look for quick, high sugar fixes to keep us awake. This decreased resilience can lead to making poor eating decisions the next day.

So how do you try to avoid poor eating late night? If you can’t get to sleep earlier and are fighting the cravings, Jessica Fishman Levinson, a registered dietitian nutritionist suggests that people brush their teeth after dinner or at the very least at the time of night they would normally go to bed, which will prevent them from eating again at night. Also, “drinking a glass of water may also ease the desire for a snack as thirst is often confused for hunger. If a snack is necessary, keep it small and balanced like a string cheese and piece of fruit or a small bowl of air-popped popcorn.”