Today’s society is full of stimulation. From the technology you use to the foods you eat, there are many things you come in contact with throughout the day that will stimulate your brain. All of this stimulation and activity can make it difficult to sleep, and many adults suffer from insomnia as a result. Consider the connection between certain activities, such as blood sugar and insomnia.
Medication and Insomnia
For some, turning to medications may be the first step in addressing insomnia. However, a few of these medications have strong side effects, are not tolerated well and may lead to a chemical dependence. While medications may help you short-term, they do not address the underlying causes of insomnia. Medications might not work well as a long-term solution to your sleep issues.
Blood Sugar Stability and Insomnia
Often, insomnia is linked directly to blood sugar imbalances. If you can’t fall asleep, or if you can fall asleep but not stay asleep, a blood sugar imbalance may be to blame. Read on to learn how your blood sugar affects your quality of sleep and what you can do to get a better night’s rest.
What Is Insomnia?
According to physicians, insomnia means you have difficulty falling asleep (onset) or staying asleep (maintenance) even when you have the chance to do so. You could even wake up too early in the morning. If you have insomnia, you probably feel unhappy with your sleep and suffer from one or more symptoms such as fatigue, difficulty concentrating, mood swings, low energy, and struggling performance at work or school.
Facts about Insomnia
Insomnia is common in adults, and the National Institutes of Health report that approximately 30 percent of the general population suffer from some sleep disruption. About 10 percent of people who suffer from insomnia have daytime functional impairments that are associated with a diagnosis.
The National Sleep Foundation conducted a poll in 2005 that found over half of the people who responded to the poll reported experiencing at least one insomnia symptom a few nights per week within the past year. One-third of the studied group had at least one of the symptoms every night, and the two most common symptoms were waking up feeling unrefreshed and waking up frequently through the night.
How Blood Sugar Affects Insomnia
Do you often lie awake at night or suddenly wake up in the middle of the night? If so, you could be experiencing a blood sugar imbalance. Your brain depends on glucose (sugar in the blood) for energy, especially at night. Throughout the night, your brain is highly active storing memories and making repairs.
Unable to Fall Asleep
When you eat foods that are high in sugar or carbohydrates, your blood sugar gets a boost, and you get a burst of energy. If eaten too close to bedtime, these foods can keep you awake at night by making it difficult to fall asleep. As insulin does its work, your blood sugar drops, and you may experience a sugar crash that leaves you feeling sleepy. At this point, you may finally be able to fall asleep. While that seems like good news, it may just be the start of a vicious cycle.
Awakening Through the Night
Now that your blood sugar has dropped and you’ve finally fallen asleep, your blood sugar continues to drop. Sometimes it drops too low. Your body naturally makes up for this drop by releasing stress hormones, cortisol, and adrenaline, from the adrenal glands. These hormones raise blood sugar back to the proper levels. Unfortunately, these stress hormones may also trigger you to awaken. Since your body has converted your glucose into energy, you may be woken up by hunger, leading you to grab a midnight snack.
Signs of Low Blood Sugar
If you wake up frequently throughout the night or have trouble falling asleep, you might suffer from other low blood sugar symptoms like:
– Sugar cravings
– Depending on caffeine for energy
– No morning appetite
– Afternoon energy crash
– Eating to relieve fatigue
Daytime Tips for Avoiding Insomnia
You may think that, by avoiding eating a large, sugary or carb-heavy meal in the evening will cure your insomnia. While it may help, it’s not just the last meal of the day that affects your blood sugar balance. The food you eat throughout the day, and your glucose levels, play a role in your blood sugar levels through the night. If your blood sugar fluctuates greatly throughout the day, or if you go for long hours without eating, you’ll likely keep struggling with insomnia while this pattern continues. By stabilizing your blood sugar levels all day with the food you eat, you’ll find yourself sleeping better at night. Here are some strategies to help balance your blood sugar and relieve low blood sugar symptoms.
Eat a Protein-Rich Breakfast
Even if you’re not feeling hungry in the morning, make an effort to avoid carbohydrates in the morning, and instead, eat proteins like eggs or breakfast meat. Soon, you’ll find that you wake up ready to eat, as it’s healthy to wake up hungry.
Eat Smaller Meals
Eat smaller meals every two to four hours that always have some protein or healthy fat. This will help stabilize your blood sugar levels, and you’ll be able to go longer between meals without crashing.
Watch Sugars, Carbohydrates, and Starches
Reduce the amount of sugar and carbohydrates you eat. If you do eat carbohydrates, make sure they are high-fiber. Avoid sugars and starchy foods two hours before bedtime.
Foods to Help Solve Blood Sugar Related Insomnia
By making some diet adjustments, you may realize that you can cure your insomnia without using medications. If you do wake up hungry during the night, or too early in the morning, eat a spoonful of your favorite nut butter, a little bit of meat or an egg to help balance your blood sugar. You may find that a high-protein snack and healthy fats will help you go back to sleep. For your daily meals, consider adding the following foods to your diet to help balance your blood sugar and improve your sleep.
Healthy, Natural Fats
If you’re sticking to a low-fat diet, but you’re having trouble sleeping, you may need to ditch your diet. Avoid processed vegetable oils or hydrogenated fats, but add healthy fats like omega-3 fats and unsaturated fats. Some examples of foods with healthy fats include nuts, eggs, flaxseed, fatty fish, avocado and peanut butter.
High Fiber Foods
Processed and sugary foods are digested very quickly, which means your blood sugar rises and drops quickly. That process can interrupt sleep. Foods high in fiber slow down the digestive process, which slows down sugar’s release into your blood, thereby helping you to avoid sugar spikes. Fiber-rich foods include beans, whole grains, and nuts.
Studies have found that drinking tart cherry juice improved sleep quality in adults with insomnia. Tart cherries are also helpful for blood sugar issues, as they have been found to lower blood sugar and produce a molecule that helps the body handle sugar better.
Vegetables and Leafy Greens
While it’s already known that you should include plenty of vegetables in your diet, they are especially helpful if you have insomnia issues related to blood sugar. Since vegetables and leafy greens are high in fiber but low in carbs, they are the ideal food for balancing blood sugar levels.
Foods to Avoid for Insomnia Related to Blood Sugar
Your body digests different foods at different rates. For those of you who struggle with blood sugar imbalances, you should avoid foods that your body quickly converts to sugar and foods that are high in sugar but low in digestion-slowing nutrients. Here are some foods to avoid to help improve your insomnia.
While high-fiber carbohydrates are fine, refined carbohydrates should be avoided. This type of carbs has been heavily processed to the point that they contain very little fiber. They are converted to sugar quickly, which causes a quick spike in blood pressure. Examples of refined carbohydrates include white pasta, white bread, pastries, cookies, crackers, and bagels.
Women should only consume six teaspoons of sugar per day, and nine teaspoons for men, according to the American Heart Association. Sweetened drinks like soda, sweetened iced tea, juice, and sports drinks often contain 8 to 10 teaspoons of added sugar in a single bottle. Without any fiber in these drinks, your body digests the sugar very quickly. You experience a rapid blood sugar increase. Instead, stick with water and unsweetened beverages.
Foods With Added Sugar
If you check the labels, most processed foods contain added sugar. While you might think you’re making a healthy choice with granola bars or a fruity yogurt, you’ll find that these foods contain quite a bit of added sugar. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell if the food contains sugar since food manufacturers may use up to seven different types of sugar in a single product. If you do buy processed foods, check the nutrition labels carefully for added sugar.
Instead of turning to medications to help you sleep better at night, take a look at what you eat during the day. If you notice a trend towards high-sugar foods and refined carbohydrates, a change in diet may be all it takes to get better sleep. By eating foods that help your blood sugar stay balanced throughout the day, you can sleep better at night.
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