Why Am I Always Hungry? A Doctor Shares 18 Reasons and Fixes

You might be always hungry because you have high sleep debt, you’re out of sync with your body clock, or you’re not getting the right balance of macronutrients.
Written by
Jeff Kahn, M.S., Rise Science Co-Founder
Reviewed by
Chester Wu, MD, Rise Science Medical Reviewer
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Hungry woman eating food from refrigerator

Your stomach’s growling, your mouth is salivating, and your eyes are darting in the direction of the kitchen. This wouldn’t be strange if it were coming up to dinner time or you were waiting on the cookies you’d just baked to cool. But often, hunger can strike when you’ve already eaten — or worse, late at night when you’re trying to sleep. 

If you feel like you’re always hungry, no matter how much you eat, it can be hard to maintain a healthy diet, concentrate at work, or fall asleep at night when your grumbling stomach demands attention. 

Below, we’ll dive into why you might be feeling hungry all the time. And, more importantly, how you can use the RISE app to fix two key causes of constant hunger: high sleep debt and being out of sync with your circadian rhythm. 

Advice from a sleep doctor:

“Sleep deprivation can leave you feeling hungry all the time, even when you’ve eaten enough. Try getting sunlight first thing in the morning, reducing light exposure in the evenings, and doing a relaxing bedtime routine to get more sleep and, hopefully, feel less hunger.”

Rise Science Medical Reviewer Dr. Chester Wu

What is Hunger?

Hunger is your body telling you it needs (or wants — more on this later) food. You’ll probably recognize the familiar growls from your stomach. Ignore them for too long and you might get low energy, poor mood (or “hanger”), brain fog, headaches, and shakiness to go with it. 

Hunger is normal. When your stomach is empty, it contracts and causes those familiar hunger pangs. When your blood sugar drops, so will your mood and energy levels. 

When your body needs food, it releases a hormone called ghrelin, also known as the hunger hormone. You’ll get those familiar feelings of hunger and an urge to eat. If you do eat, your body will produce a hormone called leptin when it’s satisfied, causing you to feel full and stop eating. This careful balance between hunger and fullness fluctuates throughout the day. 

It sounds simple enough, but hunger doesn’t always happen when we need food. Here are the different types of hunger to look out for: 

  • Physical hunger: This is the hunger we often think of when we’re feeling hungry. Physical hunger happens when our body needs food. Ghrelin levels are high and we need to take in fuel. 
  • Anticipatory hunger: This is hunger when your body is expecting food. You may not necessarily need food in that moment. For example, if you always eat lunch at noon, you may get some anticipatory hunger pangs as this time approaches. 
  • Emotional hunger: We’ve all been there. You get home from a hard day of work and your body’s craving something salty. You’re going through a break-up and a copious amount of chocolate seems like the only fix. Emotional hunger is often triggered by stress, sadness, or anxiety, and it’s a craving for a certain food (who stress eats a salad?). It’s harder to control these cravings when you’re physically hungry as well. 

Why Am I Always Hungry?

Of course, you’re going to feel hungry when your body needs fuel. But hunger can be triggered by a lot more than that. Here’s why you might be feeling hungry all the time. 

1. You’ve Got High Sleep Debt 

RISE app screenshot showing how much sleep debt you have
The RISE app can work out how much sleep debt you have.

Sleep debt is the amount of sleep you owe your body. It’s measured against your sleep need, the genetically determined amount of sleep you need each night. When you’ve got high sleep debt, you’re going to feel tired, of course, but you might feel more hunger than usual, too. 

When you don’t get enough sleep, ghrelin levels (the hunger hormone) are higher and leptin levels (the satiety hormone) are lower, a recipe for increased hunger. Research shows increased ghrelin can also lead to increased food cravings. 

A lack of sleep can also impact your production of glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). GLP-1 is released after a meal to help keep your blood sugar levels under control and promote satiety. That’s why weight loss drugs that are GLP-1 receptor agonists, like Ozempic, make you feel fuller. Research shows not getting enough sleep can lead to lower levels of GLP-1. Sleep disturbances, like sleep apnea, can also impact GLP-1. 

It doesn’t take much sleep loss for your hunger to be impacted. A 2019 study cut participants' time in bed by 33% for just one night. This led to increased hunger, increased food cravings, eating more chocolate, and eating larger portion sizes the next day. 

And more research shows people eat 385 more calories after a night of sleep deprivation. This is just one way sleep loss can lead to weight gain and obesity. 

The fix: Lower your sleep debt and keep it low (more on how soon). Check RISE to find out your unique sleep need and how much sleep debt you’re carrying.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep need and here to view their sleep debt.

2. You’re Living Out of Sync with Your Circadian Rhythm 

Your circadian rhythm is your body’s roughly 24-hour internal clock. Among other jobs, it dictates your sleep-wake cycle. When you’re out of sync with your circadian rhythm — which can happen when you sleep and eat at odd times — your hunger hormones are impacted. 

One study looked at shift workers who ate and slept 12 hours out of sync. This led to a 17% increase in ghrelin levels compared to when they were in sync with their circadian rhythms. Consistently, when out of sync, they also had a 38% higher desire to eat. 

A 2019 study found circadian misalignment also led to an increased appetite for energy-dense foods. And a 2022 paper states circadian misalignment reduces levels of leptin and peptide YY, another hormone in the body that helps us feel full. 

The fix: Get your sleep and meal times in sync with your circadian rhythm. More on how soon. The RISE app predicts your circadian rhythm each day to help you stay in sync with it.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to see their circadian rhythm on the Energy screen.

3. You’re Not Getting the Right Balance of Macronutrients 

Macronutrients are carbohydrates, protein, and fat. These make up the three main nutrients we need for fuel. If you’re not getting the balance right between these macronutrients, you may be left feeling hungry, especially in between meals. 

For example, a meal high in carbs will cause your blood sugar to spike and then crash, leading to hunger. A diet low in healthy fats can leave you craving sugar. 

Not all macronutrients are equal, either. One study found a low-fat diet can lead to more hunger than a low-carb diet. And another study found a high-protein low-calorie diet helped people feel fuller throughout the day compared to those on a normal protein low-calorie diet. Those eating more protein also had less desire to eat late at night and were less preoccupied with thoughts of food.

The fix: Aim to eat a balanced diet, getting carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats into each meal. Speak to a nutritionist to find the best balance for you.

4. Your Diet is High in Refined Carbs 

Refined carbs lack nutrients and fiber, which gives you a feeling of fullness. They also spike your blood sugar, leading to hunger when you get the inevitable sugar crash. 

Refined carbs include: 

  • White bread
  • White flour 
  • Pasta
  • Pastries 
  • Breakfast cereals 
  • Candy

The fix: Replace refined carbs in your diet with complex carbs like fruits, veggies, legumes, oatmeal, brown rice, beans, and whole grains. Bonus: complex carbs have more fiber, which slows your digestion and helps you feel fuller for longer.

5. You’re Dieting 

If you’re trying to lose weight and have cut your calories, you may feel hungrier as your body is used to more food. Cutting your calories also messes with your hunger hormones. Your body produces less leptin, meaning you don’t feel as full and satisfied.

Research also shows dieters trying to lose weight have significantly more food cravings than non-dieters. 

The fix: Try increasing your protein while losing weight and making sure you’re eating a lot of fiber-rich foods to promote fullness. Speak to your doctor or a dietitian to lose weight in a healthy way.

6. You’re Getting Calories from Liquids

Whether you’re turning to liquid meals because you’re dieting or grabbing a meal in a bottle at your desk, liquid meals can leave you feeling hungry, even though you’re consuming calories. 

Liquids pass through our stomach more quickly and, as you can consume them faster than a solid meal, your body might not get the chance to tell you it's full. Calories from liquids have also been shown to have less of an effect on satiety levels. 

The fix: Get your calories in the form of solid meals. Or, at least, don’t rely on liquid meals too often.

7. Your Blood Sugar Levels Have Crashed 

You’ve probably felt the sudden drop in energy you get when your blood sugar levels are low. This is called hypoglycemia and it can happen when you skip or delay a meal. 

But hypoglycemia can also happen a few hours after a meal when your blood sugar levels drop. And even though you’ve eaten, this drop can come with hunger pangs

You might also get a crash in blood sugar if you eat a high-carb meal, drink alcohol, are stressed, or after working out.

The fix: Keep your blood sugar levels as steady as possible by eating at regular intervals and avoiding high-carb or refined-carb meals.

8. You’re Dehydrated 

Your body has a hard time telling hunger and thirst apart. So, you may not be hungry all the time, but actually thirsty. 

Drinking water also helps you feel fuller. If you drink water before a meal, it can even reduce how much you eat. 

One study asked participants to drink two cups of water just before eating a meal. Those who drank the water felt fuller, more satisfied, and ate less compared to those who didn’t drink anything before the meal. 

According to the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, women should drink about 2.7 liters (about 11.5 cups) of water a day and men should drink 3.7 liters (about 15.5 cups) a day. You may need to drink more if you do a lot of exercise or live in a hot climate.

The fix: Keep a water bottle or glass of water nearby at all times. Set reminders on your phone or stick a Post-it note on your desk reminding you to drink up. Drink water before a meal if you’re trying to reduce your portion sizes.

9. You’re Doing Time-Restricted Eating 

Time-restricted eating often involves eating all of your meals in a set window of time, say within eight hours from midday to 8 p.m. You may have also heard of intermittent fasting, which often involves a time restriction and a cut in calories. But there’s no set definition for either term. 

If you’re trying time-restricted eating, even without a cut in calories, you may be hit with hunger in the first week or so as your body is used to more regular and spaced out meals. You don’t have what’s called metabolic flexibility yet, which is when your body can switch between burning glucose and fat for fuel. 

You can learn more about metabolic flexibility here, including what causes inflexibility, and time-restricted eating here.

The fix: Lengthen your eating window if your constant hunger doesn’t subside. Try taking MCT oil, prebiotic fiber, or increasing your salt intake when you get started to keep hunger at bay.

10. You’re Stressed

We’ve probably all been stressed and at one point turned to a sugary snack to feel better. But if you’re living in a state of chronic stress, you may be feeling chronically hungry as a result.

Research shows leptin levels decrease after a bout of stress, whereas ghrelin levels increase. Stress also hikes your cortisol levels, which can increase your appetite and food cravings.  

The added danger of stress hunger is that it makes you crave unhealthy foods. Stress can trigger cravings for “hyper-palatable foods,” often junk food, or food that is very sweet, salty, or fatty.  

It’s a vicious circle, too. When we eat these enjoyable foods, our brains release the chemical dopamine, making us feel happy. Your brain can then create more dopamine receptors in response to the high levels of the chemical. This means you need more dopamine (i.e. more junk food) to feel the same levels of satisfaction. 

A diet of high-fat/high-sugar food may also make healthier food less palatable alongside these neurobehavioral adaptations. In a randomized controlled study from March 2023, normal weight participants had high-fat/high-sugar snacks or low-fat/low-sugar snacks for 8 weeks, alongside their regular meals. The high-fat/high-sugar intervention made people less interested in low-fat food while increasing their brain’s response to food and associative learning independent of food cues or reward. These changes happened independent of any changes in body weight or metabolism, suggesting high-fat/high-sugar foods directly impact our brains and could make us more likely to overeat and gain weight. 

And sleep deprivation and circadian misalignment are forms of stress for your body. These two things can hike cortisol levels and contribute to your increased hunger.

The fix: Try breathing exercises, getting out in nature, journaling, and doing a calming bedtime routine to lower stress levels.

We cover the best breathing exercises for sleep here.

11. You’re Eating Distracted 

Whether you’re having dinner in front of the TV or eating lunch at your desk, it’s easy to be distracted at mealtime. But this distraction can stop you from recognizing fullness signals from your body. 

Research shows eating when distracted can lead to eating more in the moment and eating more food later in the day, too. And chewing for longer may even increase GLP-1 levels, which can help you feel fuller. 

You might also be stressed by this distraction — if you’re eating while responding to taxing emails or grabbing breakfast while getting the kids ready for school, for example. And this stress can contribute to hunger, too.

The fix: Try mindful eating. Take time to eat meals more slowly and concentrate on the meal itself. Mindful eating can also help you control emotional eating, too.

12. You’re Exercising a Lot  

RISE app screenshot telling you when to do your workouts
The RISE app can tell you when to avoid intense workouts.

Maybe you’re training for a marathon or hitting new PBs in the gym, either way, high levels of exercise can increase your appetite as your body burns more fuel. 

You won’t just feel hungry right after a workout, though. Exercise can make you hungrier in general. One study asked participants to do resistance exercises three times per week for eight weeks. Their appetite significantly increased, whereas no changes in appetite were seen in those who didn’t do resistance training.

Working out can be good for your hunger, too, though. Research shows exercise can improve GLP-1 levels, which helps you feel full. And it can help you fall asleep at night. Just be sure to avoid intense workouts in the hour before bed, as this can keep you up. 

The fix: Eat more calories if you’re doing a lot of exercise. Focus on getting the right balance of macronutrients so your body is well-fueled.

We’ve covered more on the best time to work out here. And RISE can tell you when to avoid intense exercise each day. 

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their avoid late workouts reminder.

13. You’re Drinking Alcohol 

Alcohol could be behind your hunger for a few reasons. Firstly, research suggests alcohol can reduce how much leptin you produce, which can stop you from feeling full and satisfied. 

Secondly, alcohol can lower your self-control and leave you craving (and perhaps indulging in) salty, fatty, and sweet foods, and possibly overeating in general.

Thirdly, alcohol could be behind other common culprits of constant hunger, like high sleep debt.

The fix: Cut down on booze to see if it reduces your hunger. Avoid alcohol too close to bedtime as it can fragment your sleep, causing sleep debt to rack up.

RISE can remind you when to have your last alcoholic drink each day to stop it from impacting sleep. And we’ve covered how long before bed you should stop drinking alcohol here. 

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to set up their avoid late alcohol reminder.

14. You’ve Just Quit Smoking

An increased appetite is just one of the side effects of nicotine withdrawal. And, if you’ve just quit, you also might be feeling other stress-inducing side effects, and this stress is contributing to an increased appetite, food cravings, and sleep loss (and therefore even more hunger).

The fix: Focus on healthy sleep and eating habits. Remind yourself how good for your health quitting is and that the withdrawal symptoms will pass.

15. Your Menstrual Cycle is to Blame

Beyond emotional eating to soothe cramps and anxiety, your menstrual cycle can impact your hunger levels in other ways. Food intake is generally higher after ovulation and before your period starts, also known as the luteal phase. You may also get more food cravings during this time, too. 

One study found women with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (or PMDD, a severe form of premenstrual syndrome) had higher cravings for fatty foods and ate more calories in the luteal phase of their cycles, whereas women without PMDD didn’t. 

You may also have trouble sleeping on or around your period, and the resulting sleep deprivation can make hunger worse. We’ve covered how to sleep on your period here. 

The fix: Focus on keeping sleep debt as low as possible and getting a good balance of macronutrients, especially in your luteal phase.

16. You’re Pregnant or Breastfeeding 

Along with low energy and morning sickness, you might experience an increased appetite when pregnant as your body needs more fuel for your growing baby. 

Pregnancy can also make it harder to sleep and it’s easy to feel stress and anxiety at this time, which can add to increased hunger levels. 

The same goes for when you're breastfeeding. Your body is working hard to produce milk and so needs more calories to do so. And sleep loss from nighttime feeds may be making your hunger even worse.

The fix: Increase your calories with healthy foods and keep an eye on your sleep debt (as much as you can).

We’ve covered how you can get energy when pregnant here.

17. Your Medication is Making You Hungry

Certain medications can increase your appetite, including:

  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-seizure drugs
  • Antihistamines, which treat allergies
  • Steroids 
  • Antipsychotic drugs 

If you’re using cannabis for pain or anxiety (or recreationally), this can increase your appetite, too.

The fix: Talk to your doctor about medication side effects and whether you can switch up your meds or doses.

18. A Health Condition is Making You Hungry 

Beyond medications, health conditions can also be contributing to hunger. These include: 

  • Type 2 diabetes 
  • Anxiety 
  • Depression 
  • Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • Graves’ disease 

The fix: Talk to a healthcare professional if you think a medical condition is behind your hunger. They can recommend the right treatment options for you.

How Can I Stop Feeling Hungry All the Time?

How you stop your hunger will all depend on what’s causing it, of course. But two overlooked fixes include lowering your sleep debt and getting in sync with your circadian rhythm. 

The win-win here? Lowering your sleep debt and getting in sync with your circadian rhythm won’t only help keep your hunger levels in check, they’ll boost your energy levels, mood, and mental and physical health, too. Here’s what to do. 

1. Lower Your Sleep Debt

Use RISE to find out your unique sleep need then aim to get as close as you can to that number each night. 

RISE can keep track of your sleep debt each day. We recommend you keep this below five hours to feel and function your best, and reduce your chances of high sleep debt hijacking your hunger levels. 

If you’ve got high sleep debt, you can pay it back by: 

  • Taking naps: Check RISE for the best time to do this.
  • Going to bed a little earlier. 
  • Sleeping in a little later: Keep this to an hour or two to avoid messing up your circadian rhythm (more on that next). 
  • Improving your sleep hygiene: Good sleep hygiene will help you fall asleep faster and wake up less often during the night, so you get more sleep overall. Many of these healthy sleep habits (like avoiding alcohol before bed) will keep hunger in check, too. RISE can tell you when to do 20+ sleep hygiene habits. 

We asked our sleep advisor and medical reviewer, Dr. Chester Wu, for his top tips on getting more sleep to keep your hunger levels in check: 

“Sleep deprivation can leave you feeling hungry all the time, even when you’ve eaten enough. Try getting sunlight first thing in the morning, reducing light exposure in the evenings, and doing a relaxing bedtime routine to get more sleep and, hopefully, feel less hunger.” Rise Science Medical Reviewer Chester Wu

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to view their sleep debt.

2. Get in Sync with Your Circadian Rhythm

RISE app screenshot showing your melatonin window
The RISE app can tell you the best time to go to bed.

RISE predicts your circadian rhythm each day based on factors like your inferred light exposure and last night’s sleep times. You can then see when your body naturally wants to wake up, wind down for bed, and go to sleep, making it easier to sync up your daily life to it. 

Here’s how to get and stay in sync: 

  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule: Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same times each day, even on your days off. 
  • Eat meals at roughly the same times and during the day: Keep a regular eating pattern and avoid eating too close to bedtime as this can keep you up. 
  • Go to bed during your Melatonin Window: This is what we call the roughly one-hour window of time when your body’s rate of melatonin production is at its highest. As melatonin primes your body for sleep, going to bed during this window can help you fall and stay asleep.

RISE users on iOS 1.202 and above can click here to see their circadian rhythm on the Energy screen.

Get Your Hunger Levels Under Control  

There are many reasons you could be feeling hungry all the time, but two key culprits that are often overlooked are high sleep debt and circadian misalignment. 

The RISE app can work out your individual sleep need and how much sleep debt you have, so you can lower it and keep it low. RISE can also predict your circadian rhythm so you can more easily live in sync with it. 

The good news is lowering your debt and getting in sync with your circadian rhythm can not only help to reduce out-of-control hunger pangs, but increase your energy and overall health and well-being, too. 

And if something else is causing your constant hunger — like your medication, stress, or dieting — low sleep debt and circadian alignment will help to keep cravings as low as they can be. 

Summary FAQs

Why am I always hungry and tired?

Two common reasons you might be feeling always hungry and tired include high sleep debt and living out of sync with your circadian rhythm. Get more sleep at night and get back in sync with your circadian rhythm to get your hunger levels in check and get more energy.

Why am I always hungry woman?

You might be always hungry as a woman when you’re in the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle, or when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. High sleep debt, living out of sync with your circadian rhythm, poor macronutrient balance, and stress can also leave you feeling hungry all the time.

Why am I always hungry even after eating?

You could be always hungry even after eating because of high sleep debt, being out of sync with your circadian rhythm, not eating a good balance of macronutrients, being stressed, eating when distracted, or being dehydrated.

Why am I always hungry at night?

You might be always hungry at night because of high sleep debt, being out of sync with your circadian rhythm, not eating a good balance of macronutrients, being stressed, eating when distracted, or being dehydrated.

Is being hungry all the time normal?

Being hungry all the time isn’t normal, but it’s common. You could be hungry all the time due to high sleep debt, being out of sync with your circadian rhythm, not eating a good balance of macronutrients, being stressed, eating when distracted, or being dehydrated.

How do I stop feeling hungry all the time?

Stop feeling hungry all the time by lowering your sleep debt, living in sync with your circadian rhythm, drinking enough water, keeping stress levels in check, reducing refined carbs, and eating a good mix of carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein.

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Rise is the only app that unlocks the real-world benefits of better sleep.

Instead of just promising a better night, we use 100 years of sleep science to help you pay down sleep debt and take advantage of your circadian rhythm to be your best.

Over the past decade, we've helped professional athletes, startups, and Fortune 500s improve their sleep to measurably win more in the real-world scenarios that matter most.

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Try 7 days free

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RISE makes it easy to improve your sleep and daily energy to reach your potential

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