Insomnia: Is It Your Blood Sugar?

I must have been giving this advice now for about 20+ years. If you can’t sleep: balance your blood sugar properly and it will help in the vast majority of cases.

I do this myself. I have PCOS which messes about with insulin levels. I have a protein and carb snack before bed – mostly warm nut milk and half a banana. And, if I wake during the night – especially if it is between 2-4am – I have some more banana. It invariably sends me back off to sleep. Nights when I don’t do that, I will wake and lie there thinking for an hour at least. Note to self- don’t bother, get up and have your banana!

Anyway, you can see where I talk about this in my Insomnia factsheet – another that needs updating a bit – but the gist is there.

Insomnia Factsheet

I was reminded of this actually by an email from Dr Kharrazian in my inbox this morning. He explains the same thing here:

The two types of insomnia and their relation to blood sugar

“Two types of insomnia can be traced to blood sugar instability: Having a hard time falling asleep and having a hard time staying asleep. In both cases, people’s 24-hour cortisol rhythms have deviated from a pattern in which cortisol should be highest within 30 minutes of waking and then gradually decline throughout the day until it is lowest at bedtime.

Let’s discuss these two distinct patterns.

Having a hard time falling asleep: When we measure the cortisol rhythms of people who have a hard time falling asleep, many have high cortisol in the morning as they should, however it stays high throughout the day and may even spike in the evening when it’s time to go to sleep. We typically find these patients also have high blood sugar and inflammation, which leads to high cortisol levels.

Having a hard time staying asleep: These patients fall asleep just fine but typically wake up around 3 or 4 a.m., often filled with worry and anxiety and perhaps even heart palpitations. This is due to nocturnal hypoglycemia — their blood sugar levels plummet during the night, depriving the brain of the energy it needs to carry out its repair and restoration work during the night. To compensate, it triggers the release of adrenal hormones to activate glycogenolysis, the breakdown of glycogen in the muscles and liver to create glucose and restore energy to the brain. Unfortunately, this adrenaline surge also wakes people up with worry and anxiety.”

Recognise it? Check your adrenals and eat a protein and carb snack to balance your blood sugar.

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