Do you ever get up in the morning feeling like you didn’t sleep a wink the night before? Or do you wake in the middle of the night and find it hard to get back to sleep? Insomnia or disrupted sleep can have many causes, including depression or anxiety. Some health practitioners believe that refined sugar may also be a sleep deprivation culprit.
The Sugar Basics
Our bodies rely on sugar. Blood sugar, called glucose, is carried throughout our body and gives our cells the fuel needed to function. Without enough blood sugar, our cells just don’t get enough energy to operation. With too much sugar traveling in the bloodstream, however, our cells can get damaged.
A simple carbohydrate, sugars are naturally found in many foods including fruits and vegetables. Glucose is in tomatoes, onions, and mushrooms and is easily broken down by the body. Fructose is also a simple sugar and is a primary source of sugar in fruit.
Refined sugars are modified and processed, sometimes known as complex sugars. The source ingredient is usually from sugar beet or sugarcane. Many other types of refined sugars exist such as high fructose corn syrup, agave, and molasses.
The biggest difference between simple and complex, or refined, sugar is simple: refined sugar offers no nutritional value. Too much refined sugar in the diet forces the body, especially the pancreas and adrenal glands, to work overtime as they try to keep blood sugar levels in balance.
Balancing Sugar for Better Sleep
As the body works to balance its blood sugar throughout the day, it also does this balancing act at night. We can help the body stabilize its blood sugar to promote a more restful and prolonged period of sleep. Waking fully rested is a wonderful feeling for your overall wellbeing!
- Look for low-processed foods
Sugar is added to almost every packaged food product in the grocery store. When shopping, aim for foods that don’t come in packages, like fruits and vegetables. Try to increase proteins, such as wild-caught salmon and pasture-raised poultry. Encourage your family to reach for fresh vegetables and fruit (not fruit juice)!
- Labor over labels
When you do buy processed or packaged foods, be sure to read the ingredients. Keep an eye out for the many sugars that may have been added. Skip “refined” or “enriched” flour. Look out for added sugar, like cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup, which can be found in a wide variety of foods, even spaghetti sauce!
- Eat earlier
Try and eat smaller meals during the day (avoiding snacks) and eat your evening meal earlier. Eating earlier helps your body digest any sugars before you go to bed. Don’t eat chocolate, ice cream or sweets before bed. Limit caffeine and sweeteners, too. Your body will “learn” this is your new pattern and begin to unwind toward a restful night.
- Stress relaxation
Many things can disrupt your sleep. In addition to refined sugars, you may be suffering from anxiety or tension. Stress triggers an increase in cortisol in the body, which can contribute to high blood sugar. Talk to your physician about ways to relax or consider meditation or other techniques to help you unwind before bed.
Help your body manage its blood sugar levels. Just a few lifestyle changes can help your sleep pattern improve and increase the chance you wake rested and healthier!