Breakfast is one of the most hyped meals of the day– and for good reason. It provides your body with much-needed nutrients and energy to start the day. It’s even been linked with weight loss and improved mental clarity. However, not everyone starts the day with a rumbling tummy ready for a hearty breakfast. In fact, some people say they have no appetite when they first wake up in the morning. If this is something that happens to you regularly, there are a few possible explanations.
Your Circadian Rhythms Are Out Of Whack
First, it’s important to understand that your body has its own natural circadian rhythms. These are the daily fluctuations in hormones and other bodily functions that tell you when to sleep, wake up, and eat.
For most people, these rhythms are set so that they’re hungry in the morning and sleepy at night. But if your circadian rhythms are out of whack, it could explain why you’re not hungry in the morning (5).
What causes circadian rhythm disruption? There are a few different contributing factors, including:
- Working the night shift;
- Having a baby (or caring for a young child);
- Traveling across time zones; and
- Suffering from jet lag.
If any of these apply to you, it’s no wonder you’re not feeling very hungry in the morning. However, there are some things you can do to help get your circadian rhythms back on track.
For one, try to stick to a regular sleep schedule as much as possible. This means going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, even on weekends.
If you can’t avoid working a late-night shift or traveling, there are some strategies that can help minimize their impact on your circadian rhythms.
For instance, if you’re working the night shift, try to get exposure to natural light during the day and avoid working long hours without a break. If you’re traveling, try to get exposure to natural light (either outdoors or through a window) as soon as possible when you arrive at your destination.
You Ate A Big Dinner (Or Late-Night Snack)
If you ate a big dinner or late-night snack before bed, that could also explain why you’re not hungry in the morning. This is especially true if you ate a high-protein and or high-fat meal.
Protein-rich foods can slow down digestion and make you feel fuller for longer. Fat takes even longer to digest, so if you ate a lot of it before bed, you may not be feeling too hungry in the morning (7).
There’s also some evidence that these foods trigger hormones that promote fullness. Protein can alter levels of ghrelin, glucagon-like peptide-1, and cholecystokinin (CCK)– all of which are hormones that can regulate appetite (7).
Similarly, fat can alter levels of peptide YY (PYY), another hormone that plays a role in appetite (7).
Timing your evening meal or snack accordingly can help prevent this from happening. Ideally, you should stop eating at least three hours before bedtime to give your body time to digest.
You’re Stressed Or Anxious
Stress and anxiety can also affect how hungry you feel. This is because stress can trigger the release of hormones like cortisol, which can have all sorts of effects on your body, including suppressing appetite for some people (6).
If you’re dealing with a lot of stress or anxiety, it may be helpful to try some stress-relieving techniques, such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises.
You’re Drinking Too Much Coffee When You Wake Up
If you are like many people, you might reach for a cup of coffee as soon as you wake up. But if you drink it on an empty stomach, it might actually make you feel less hungry.
Caffeine has an appetite-suppressing effect because it increases levels of the hormone adrenaline. Adrenaline signals your body to release sugar into your bloodstream for quick energy. This can prevent you from feeling hungry, at least for a little while (4).
You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep
If you’re not getting enough sleep, it can also affect how hungry you feel in the morning. This is because sleep deprivation can lead to changes in hormones that control appetite, such as ghrelin and leptin (10).
Getting enough sleep is important for all sorts of reasons, including maintaining a healthy weight. Ideally, you should aim to get 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep per night.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, there are a few things you can try, such as:
- Establishing a regular sleep schedule;
- Creating a relaxing bedtime routine;
- Limiting caffeine and alcohol consumption; and
- Avoiding working or using electronic devices in bed.
You Have An Underlying Medical Condition
There are several medical conditions that can cause or contribute to a loss of appetite.
- Respiratory infections: This condition may result from having a flu or cold.
- Gastrointestinal conditions. Some of these conditions are celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis.
- Underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism): This condition occurs when your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough of the hormone thyroxine, which is necessary for metabolism. As a result, you may feel fatigued, gain weight, and have a decreased appetite.
- Depression: This mood disorder can lead to changes in eating habits and a loss of interest in food.
- Anorexia nervosa: This is an eating disorder that’s characterized by an intense fear of gaining weight and self-starvation.
- Cancer: This can cause a loss of appetite due to cancer itself or treatments, such as chemotherapy.
- AIDS and other chronic illnesses: These can lead to a loss of appetite due to the underlying condition, medications, or treatments.
In most cases, staying hydrated and eating bland, easy-to-digest foods can help ease gastrointestinal symptoms and make you feel more comfortable. If your loss of appetite is due to a medical condition, treatment will focus on the underlying cause. Talk to your doctor for more information.
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You’re Taking Certain Medications
Certain medications can also lead to a loss of appetite, including (3):
- Antidepressants: These medications can cause changes in appetite and weight.
- Blood pressure medications: These can cause nausea and vomiting.
- Steroids: These can suppress appetite.
You’re Getting Older
Older adults experience a natural decline in appetite. This is due to many factors, such as (1):
- Changes in taste and smell
- Changes in hormones
- A decrease in activity level
- Dental problems
- Chronic illness
Eating smaller, more frequent meals and choosing foods that are high in nutrients can help older adults to maintain their appetite.
If you’re struggling to eat enough, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian. They can offer suggestions on how to increase your appetite and make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need.
During pregnancy, it’s common for women to experience a loss of appetite in the first trimester. This is due to hormonal changes and morning sickness (9).
To resolve this, try eating small, frequent meals throughout the day and avoid foods that trigger your nausea. If you’re still struggling to eat enough, talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian for guidance.
What Can You Do About It?
If you’re not hungry in the morning, there are a few things you can do to increase your appetite:
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day.
- Choose nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats.
- Drink plenty of fluids, especially water.
- Avoid processed foods, sugary drinks, and caffeine.
- Get regular exercise.
- Try relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation.
When Should You Worry About Loss Of Appetite In The Morning?
Not feeling hungry in the morning is normal for some people, especially if you don’t typically eat breakfast. However, if you’re not hungry in the morning regularly and it’s accompanied by other symptoms, it could be a sign of an underlying health condition.
Consult your doctor if you are:
Rapidly Losing Weight
Skipping breakfast shouldn’t cause you to lose weight unless you’re also skipping other meals or making poor food choices. If you’re not hungry in the morning and you’re losing weight unintentionally, it’s important to talk to your doctor to rule out an underlying health condition.
Experiencing Other Symptoms
If you’re not hungry in the morning and you’re also experiencing other symptoms, such as fatigue, nausea, or vomiting, it could be a sign of an underlying health condition. Consult your doctor to rule out any possible causes.
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You Have A History Of Eating Disorders
If you have a history of anorexia or other eating disorders, not being hungry in the morning could be a sign that your disorder is returning. If you’re concerned about your eating habits, talk to your doctor or mental health professional.
You’re Taking Certain Medications
Certain medications can cause loss of appetite, including some antidepressants, blood pressure medications, and steroids (3). If you think your medication is causing you to lose your appetite, talk to your doctor. They may be able to adjust your dosage or switch you to a different medication.
You Get To Lunch Ravenously Hungry
If you’re starving by lunchtime, it could be a sign that you’re not eating enough at breakfast. Ideally, you should be eating every 3 to 4 hours throughout the day. This will help keep your blood sugar levels stable and prevent overeating later in the day.
It can also help you make better food choices, which are essential for good health and weight management.
The Bottom Line
Loss of appetite in the morning can be normal for some people and can be remedied by eating a small breakfast or snack. However, if you’re not hungry in the morning regularly and it’s accompanied by other symptoms, it could be a sign of an underlying health condition. If you’re concerned about your appetite, talk to your doctor. They can help you determine the cause and recommend treatment.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- An overview of appetite decline in older people (2015, nih.gov)
- Appetite – decreased (n.d., mountsinai.org)
- Appetite Suppressants (2020, clevelandclinic.org)
- Caffeine, coffee, and appetite control: a review (2017, pubmed.gov)
- Circadian Rhythm and Sleep Disruption: Causes, Metabolic Consequences, and Countermeasures (2016, nih.gov)
- Eating behavior and stress: a pathway to obesity (2014, nih.gov)
- Effects of high-protein vs. high- fat snacks on appetite control, satiety, and eating initiation in healthy women (2014, biomedcentral.com)
- Loss of Appetite: Symptoms & Signs (2019, medicinenet.com)
- Nausea, vomiting and poor appetite during pregnancy and adverse birth outcomes in rural Nepal: an observational cohort study (2020, biomedcentral.com)
- Sleep, Appetite, and Obesity—What Is the Link? (2004, nih.gov)