Photo: Nicolas Barbier Garreau
Daily routines have been interrupted due to the coronavirus pandemic. Social distancing has us navigating the curveballs of life, trying to stay steady as we balance the normalities of our day-to-day. Things like exercise come through televisions now and trips to your favorite shops are paused, at least for now.
But there are other downsides to social distancing that could be harming many people by the way we eat and how we sleep.
If you’re starting to notice a disruption in your sleep routine and cravings for sweet carb snacks, there’s a correlation between the two that might explain things. CNN reported how poor sleep can translate to adjustments in our appetite for more fatty and sugary foods, which could cause unwanted weight gain during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“When you’re sleep-deprived, you’re not like, ‘Oh, you know what, I want some carrots,’ ” University of Chicago behavioral neuroscientist Erin Hanlon told CNN.
“You’re craving sweets and salty and starchy things,” Hanlon told the network earlier. “You want those chips, you want a cookie, you want some candy, you know?”
Past studies have proved this to be true. Research by Harvard University found that when people are stressed have been linked to weight gain with people seeking comfort foods to calm them in times of need. Brain research Achim Peters explained why people turn to carbs during tough times in Scientific American.
“When we are hungry, a whole network of brain regions activates. At the center are the ventromedial hypothalamus (VMH) and the lateral hypothalamus,” he wrote. “These two regions in the upper brain stem are involved in regulating metabolism, feeding behavior, and digestive functions.
“There is, however, an upstream gatekeeper, the nucleus arcuatus (ARH) in the hypothalamus. If it registers that the brain itself lacks glucose, this gatekeeper blocks information from the rest of the body. That’s why we resort to carbohydrates as soon as the brain indicates a need for energy, even if the rest of the body is well supplied.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned about stress during the coronavirus outbreak, which can come in ways such as fearing for your own health or loved ones’ health, changes in sleep or eating patterns, difficult sleep or concentrating, and increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs.
The CDC recommended a few steps to help cope with stress, which was the following:
- Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories (including social media).
- Take care of your body. Deep breaths, stretching, or meditating can help.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs.
- Make time to unwind and try other activities you enjoy.
- Exercise regularly.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Connect with others. Don’t be afraid to talk about what you feel and how you feel.