The more erratic your blood sugars, the less you sleep, and the less you sleep, the higher your blood glucose goes. So being healthy depends on establishing both level blood sugars and restorative sleep.
How Poor Sleep Raises Blood Sugars
Sleep deprivation is a form of stress. Stress is another way of saying “energy demand.” There has to be fuel to supply that demand. So certain hormones, including cortisol, signal the body to release glucose from stores. Naturally, the higher the stress, the greater the release of glucose.
But there’s another problem. The less you sleep, the less able you are to metabolize, or use, the glucose that is being released. So of course blood sugars escalate!
How Erratic Blood Sugars Disrupt Sleep
It doesn’t matter which comes first: the sleep loss or the blood sugar changes. Just like chicken and egg, one begets the other continuously.
Remember that cortisol is released when the body is stressed? Not only does cortisol raise blood sugars to fuel the energy need, it wakes you up! Cortisol is a mobilization hormone. It competes with melatonin, your sleep hormone. In teeter-totter fashion, when one rises, the other falls.
To aggravate the situation, when your blood sugars are too high, your kidneys will try to remove some of the glucose via urine. So, you wake up to use the bathroom. You may also wake up because you feel hot, thirsty or irritable – other side effects of high blood sugar.
You know that high blood sugars directly correlate with high insulin. But did you know that insulin is a trigger for the “fight or flight” response? So having a meal during the day that precipitates an insulin surge will keep you from sleeping tonight. When that happens repeatedly, you become insulin resistant. Insulin resistance can affect the liver, rocketing blood sugars even more. Normally, your liver supplies your with just the right amount of glucose to keep you functioning in your sleep. If your liver has become insulin resistant, it makes too much glucose, provoking even greater blood sugar imbalance.
On the other hand, you also lose zzzzz’s if your blood sugars drop too low. Why? Hormones again. Cortisol, as well as adrenaline and glucagon, tell the body to eat, not sleep, because energy stores are waning. Adrenaline quickens your pulse and breathing. It takes you from “rest and repose” to “rally and run.”
How to Assure a Healthy Balance
So what are you to do about this vicious spiral? Love your hormones! Honor melatonin by following circadian rhythms. Reduce adrenaline and cortisol with nightly relaxation practices. And by all means, eat balanced ratios of carbs, fats, and proteins to avoid glucose and insulin surges! Here are some specific suggestions:
- Wake up with the sun. Minimize artificial light, especially in the evening. Special blue-light blocking glasses can be helpful if you have to function after dark.
- Try aromatherapy, music therapy, pet therapy, or any other calming practice to shift out of sympathetic state at the end of the day.
- Eat whole food meals and avoid snacking. Stay away from refined and processed foods, limit starches and flours, increase vegetable portions, and until sleep normalizes, boost your protein consumption.
If you need further help with your sleep, contact me about supplements and strategies for your individual physiology.