Some people either wake up at various times, commonly between 2-4am and others consistently at one specific time like clockwork. Some experience this every night and for others it comes at goes.
Either way, would you like to know what could be causing this and how you can fix it?
The common reason for this occurrence is hypoglycemia! Meaning your blood sugar levels drop too low in the middle of the night. Your body registers this as a stressor, which causes your cortisol (stress hormone) levels to spike and essentially wake you up.
Some people can go back to sleep quickly, while others toss and turn and can time some time to fall back asleep. Either way, what you should be doing is exploring why your blood sugar levels are unstable to begin with?
It’s important to understand that this is not something that may happen just to those who are diabetic or pre-diabetic, but even those that may lead a very healthy lifestyle yet are prone to hypoglycemia.
If you are the type of person that needs to have a lot of snacks during the day, several small frequent meals to keep your energy stable or if you are the type to not handle meal skipping very well, causing you to feel irritable, very hungry and possibly even shaky and faint, then this is could the likely cause of your sleep issues.
Even those undergoing a lot of stress, especially if it you have a hard time turning your mind off at bedtime and if you struggle with anxiety, this too can drop your blood sugar levels.
The short term solution to this problem is actually having a small snack at bedtime to stabilize glucose levels overnight. Focus on foods that are higher on protein and also have some fat. Some ideas include:
- Handful of nuts and seeds. Almonds are high in magnesium, which is calming to the nervous system and can help you sleep better. Walnuts are high in an amino acid called tryptophan, which builds neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and melatonin – all which play a role in sleep.
- Slice of cheese or unsweetened Greek yogurt or kefir (if no dairy sensitivity)
- Hard-boiled egg
- Apples slices or veggie sticks with almond butter, organic peanut butter or some other nut butter of your liking.
Give this a try for 2-3 weeks and see if this helps improve your sleep. If it does, then you know hypoglycemia is the cause of your night-time waking and rather than having to rely on a bedtime snack to resolve the issue, you should really focus on the types of foods you eat during the day so to avoid hypoglycemia to begin with.
A better long-term approach would be to switch your macronutrients to eat more fat and protein and a lot less carbs during the day. Carbs spike your insulin and cause fluctuating blood sugar levels, while fats and proteins help stabilize them and don’t rely on insulin release, hence helping you address the true underlying cause of the problem.
Give this try! However if you still struggle with sleep problems despite the bed-time snacks and resolution of the hypoglycemia, this could indicate that your cortisol is rising for other reasons, there may be other underlying health issues such as sleep apnea, excess weight, poor sleep hygiene, hormonal imbalance and other potential causes that should be looked at by your health-care provider.
Contact me if you would like to explore different solutions for your poor sleep and don’t let it become a habit as it will quickly impact your quality of life and health overall. Now go ahead and sleep on it!