Increasing research shows that we sleep less than in the past, and that less sleep makes people eat more food, and more junk food (high in sugar and salt). A nice summation in the Harvard Crimson of the research:
Teenagers—especially girls—who regularly sleep less than eight hours a night tend to eat more fatty and sugary foods than those who maintain adequate sleep schedules, according to a study published in yesterday’s issue of the journal Sleep.
Redline said that this link may explain the “freshman 15” phenomenon many college students experience.
College surveys have shown that some freshman get less than five hours of sleep at night, a result of living in an environment in which they go to sleep very late but still get up early for class, said Redline.
“In response to the stress of sleep deprivation and exams, many students turn to late-night snacking or junk foods,” she said.
I don’t always succeed in this area, but I try to get 8 hrs a night. I’ve found that taking melatonin and using sleep masks have helped me sleep better. I take melatonin after I’m in for the night (no driving!), 1-2 hrs before I want to be asleep; I actually set a Google calendar reminder to alert me at 8pm each night.