Do you always wake up in the middle of the night at the same time?
Do you blame it on the dog, the wind, or your need to go to the bathroom? What if I told there's an actual reason you're waking up in the middle of the night?
So, what's the cause you ask? Blood sugar dysregulation.
The number one commonality I find with clients who are waking up between the hours of 1 and 4 am is that they aren't incorporating any carbs at dinner or they're snacking on sweets or carb dense foods after dinner.
I'm sure you're asking yourself, "You can wake up in the middle of the night when you eat carbs and when you don't eat them? I don't get" Hear me out.
Why to Incorporate Carbs At Dinner
Most people have been taught to stop eating carbs after 6 pm or to avoid them all together at dinner.
However, carbs actually help increase melatonin production and therefore improve sleep. Eating carbohydrates at night can help replenish glycogen (the storage form of glucose). Your body needs a reserve of glycogen in order to maintain your blood sugar throughout the night.
If you wake up between the hours of 1 and 4 am, it is most commonly caused by a drop in blood sugar followed by an immediate spike in cortisol.
Cortisol is a stress hormone released in response to a perceived threat your body is experiencing. Your blood sugar dropping is that threat.
When your body identifies a threat is eminent (i.e. your blood sugar dropping) cortisol begins breaking down protein (aka muscle tissue) to create more glucose. This action of cortisol being released, causes us to wake up in the middle of the night.
In this fight or flight mode, it signals your body to store body fat. Sustained high cortisol levels also destroy healthy muscle and bone, slow down healing and normal cell regeneration, impair digestion, metabolism, mental function, interfere with endocrine function and weaken your immune system.
Needless to say, we want to do everything we can to manage and lower cortisol levels. Read on to learn some tips how to effectively lower cortisol and improve sleep.
Why To Avoid Snacking After Dinner
This same action described above can also result if you are consuming sweet treats a couple hours after dinner or right before bed. Maybe you don't eat sweets, but it's popcorn or chips or even an apple.
Regardless of whether it's a healthy snack or not, it's almost often strictly carbohydrates. In this instance, consuming strictly carbs as your snack can cause a dramatic blood sugar spike and a subsequent decrease in blood sugar. This sudden decrease in blood sugar will result in the release of cortisol. This is the same stress hormone that woke you up when you didn't consume carbs at dinner.
"So then what's the balance here, Ali. How do I get this blood sugar thing to stop?"
It's a lot easier said than done, but below are my top tips to at least start you on the road to improving sleep.
Top Tips To Improve Sleep
1. Always make sure your dinner is complete with:
Protein (i.e 4-6 oz any quality meat)
Carb (1/2 c- 1 cup sweet potato, butternut squash, potato, brown rice, quinoa, etc)
Fat (1/2 avocado, 1/2 tbs coconut oil, butter tallow or ghee, 1/4 c raw nuts or seeds)
Vegetable - always AT LEAST 1 cup if not more, always vary your vegetable to get in a variety of nutrients
2. Try to stop eating or snacking after you've eaten dinner
It helps to follow the above meal guidelines to prevent the need for snacking. If you are hungry, try to increase the serving sizes at dinner and if you need a snack, rely more on protein, healthy fats (like raw nuts or nut butters) and/or vegetables
3. Avoid foods you are sensitive to or cause gas bloating or digestive discomfort (this will only contribute to disrupted sleep as it overwhelms the liver and the digestive system)
4. Eat at least 4 hours before you go to sleep
5. Avoid sugar, hydrogenated oils, caffeine, and refined carbs as these can also overwhelm the body and organ systems
6. Shut off all artificial light (cell phone, lab top, computer etc) at least two hours before bed
Although not related to blood sugar regulation, artificial light prevents the production of melatonin (our sleep hormone), so this only contributes to an inability to fall asleep or restless sleep.
So if you are cutting the carbs at dinner or find yourself frequently snacking after dinner, consider the possibility that these habits could be contributing to your restless sleep patterns, increased stress levels, and inability to lose weight.
Want more tips to improve your blood sugar regulation?
Email me at Ali@NourishedAbundance.com for a free informational session!
In Abundant Health,