How blood sugar affects your sleep

How does your blood sugar level affect your sleep?

Katrina Rice investigates how blood sugar levels and carbohydrates impact on your sleep

69 Shares

Are you the type who constantly eats large and unhealthy meals every day? If yes, you need to know that this is a poor habit that you need to change immediately. Poor eating habits like eating too much every meal time will only cause you to eat more later on.

This happens because eating large and unhealthy meals will get your insulin levels to spike up and as soon as your blood sugar drops, your body will start looking for more sugar to absorb which will lead you to crave for more food.

>> You might like: Why poor sleep leads to bad food choices

The more you consume food, the more your body sends signals to your brain that you have to eat another large meal later on. The moment your blood sugar drops your cravings, particularly for carbohydrates and other sugars will start to kick in.

As you can imagine, once this kind of poor eating pattern starts to develop, it becomes difficult to stop, making you possibly irritable, nauseous, tired and constantly hungry. A pattern like the above can throw you off your focus, energy and mood. It also potentially leads to weight gain and sleep problems.

If your body’s insulin levels cannot keep up with the amount of sugar you eat, the excess sugar is stored as fat. This is how weight gain becomes directly related to diabetes and sleep apnea. If not addressed, you will find yourself in a vicious cycle of binge eating, weight gain and disrupted sleeping patterns.

How do blood sugar levels affect your sleep?

Step 1: Eating sugar-rich foods like pastries, chocolates, and candies can boost your blood sugar thereby providing a burst of energy that causes you to stay up late at night. This will happen especially if you like snacking before bedtime.

Step 2: As soon as your brain realizes that your body is full of sugar, it stimulates the pancreas to release large amounts of insulin to transfer the sugar from your blood to energy-storing cells. As soon as this happens, your blood sugar drops inevitably low and causes you to feel sleepy. You would think it is good news, but it is not.

Step 3: After your blood sugar drops low, your body sends signals to trigger stress responses that stimulate the release of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol. These two hormones are mainly responsible for keeping you up at night.

Pre-bedtime snacking

Eating large meals or high-carb snacks before bedtime will more likely wake you up even after you have fallen asleep. As soon as your body is done converting the carbohydrates you ate into stored energy, it will want more – causing you to feel hungry again even if it is at the wee hours of the night.

This explains why there are times that you may wake up at 2:00AM in the morning simply because you feel hungry and even at rest, your body requires more energy.

>> You might like: Late Night and Appetites – The Sleep-Obesity Connection

Peaks and fluctuations during the day also influence your blood sugar balance before and during bedtime. One example is when you allow your blood sugar to go too low by skipping meals.

This habit leads you to binge eat later on at dinner time and cause sugar spikes once more. Another example would be eating too much high-sugar foods – like drinking soda while eating muffins, or eating sweet treats like chocolates as snacks.

Take control of your carb intake

As carbohydrates are the main source of sugar in a normal diet, they should be regulated to help normalize blood sugar levels efficiently. It is also important to know that not all carbohydrates are bad.

How do carbohydrates impact your health? – Richard J. Wood

How carbohydrates impact your health – Ted Ed

There are two types of carbs, simple and complex.

Simple carbohydrates generally come from processed food, white rice, potatoes, pasta and other baked goods. They are broken down to simple sugar molecules that are easily absorbed in the small intestines. Complex carbs on the other hand contain fiber and take more time to digest. They will keep you satiated and full for longer periods of time.

Complex carbs also contain tryptophan – an amino acid that converts into relaxing brain chemicals like melatonin and serotonin, and also puts you in the soporific state – the strong urge to sleep. It keeps sugar cravings at bay and allows gradual absorption of sugar in the blood.

Both types of carbohydrates provide energy for the body, but complex carbohydrates take more time to digest due to their whole-grain and fiber content that are more difficult for the digestive system to process.

This slower digestion prevents insulin spikes and allows a slow and stable release of insulin in the body. It also helps spread out your energy more efficiently and does not cause any sugar crash.

Some practical tips

Preventing the vicious cycle of blood sugar surges and fluctuations is possible by simply making smarter food choices. Below are a few tips you can adopt in your lifestyle right away.

  • Cut back on simple carbohydrates. If possible, quit eating anything that contains sugar. As an alternative, you can source your daily requirement of carbohydrates from low-carb vegetables.
  • Eat more complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and proteins.
  • Reduce your serving size. You can trick your mind by using smaller plates.
  • Eat small but frequent meals. This will avoids dips in your blood sugar, preventing you from craving for unhealthy food and boosting your metabolism.
  • Avoid eating snacks two hours before bedtime. If you have to have it, make sure to choose healthy, sugar-free snacks. Particularly food that contains the amino acid tryptophan.
  • Drink water and only water. It is sugar-free, has zero calories and improves cellular activity. Most beverages, including fruit juices contain sugar and should be avoided.

Even if your blood tests show a normal blood sugar level, implementing the above tips will help normalize your blood sugar, prevent you from gaining too much weight and ward off further issues that can pop up later on in life.

Consistent high amounts of carbohydrate-rich meals cause a blood sugar imbalance day after day and year after year. Eventually, your cells will stop responding well to insulin and this can possibly lead to a metabolic syndrome called insulin resistance. If your insulin efficiency drops too much, you already have diabetes.

The bottom line is, your body cannot regulate your blood sugar levels by itself. You have to be mindful of what you eat and watch over your sugar intake as well.

A balanced blood sugar all throughout the day leads to a better night’s rest. The healthier you eat, the less likely it is that you will get sleep disturbances.