What Does It Mean When You Wake Up Hungry During The Middle Of The Night?

Of all the things that can wake us up in the middle of the night — the urge to pee, a loud noise — sometimes our stomach is one of them. If you've ever been roused from a deep slumber due to a grumbling belly, you may be wondering if it's normal to wake up hungry after hours.

A bout of hunger that hits overnight could be a sign you're in need of more fuel during the day. Registered dietitian nutritionist Katherine Metzelaar tells Well + Good, " ... when someone isn't fed enough throughout the day or has last eaten five hours before bed, they are likely going to need food again."  Normally our body suppresses the release of ghrelin when we go to sleep — a hunger-signaling hormone. However, if the body is low on energy due to a lack of food, it will continue to produce more ghrelin as we snooze, which can disrupt our sleep.

But even when you wake up hungry in the middle of the night, it doesn't always mean that your body is craving food. Rather, you could be low on water, according to experts at CNET. If we're not keeping ourselves adequately hydrated during waking hours, sometimes this can show up as feelings of hunger during nighttime hours.

Give these bedtime snacks a try

In addition to keeping ourselves fueled during the day, experts at Well + Good suggest eating a snack before hitting the hay to help keep hunger wake-ups at bay. Crackers paired with hummus, yogurt mixed with fruit, or toast topped with almond butter are among their top suggestions.

In some cases, nighttime hunger may be attributed to a condition known as night eating syndrome, which is deemed an "other specified feeding or eating disorder" by the National Eating Disorder Association. Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Whitney Linsenmeyer tells LiveStrong, "[night eating syndrome] is characterized by a pattern of consuming a significant portion of one's overall food intake at night, lack of appetite in the morning and the feeling of needing to eat before returning to sleep, among other traits."

Waking up hungry is also thought to potentially be linked to diabetes, in which case, individuals may consistently wake up hungry due to low blood sugar levels. Linsenmeyer suggests speaking with your physician if nighttime hunger is waking you up at least twice a week and interfering with your daily functioning.

If you are struggling with an eating disorder, or know someone who is, help is available. Visit the National Eating Disorders Association website or contact NEDA's Live Helpline at 1-800-931-2237. You can also receive 24/7 Crisis Support via text (send NEDA to 741-741).