Help! How do I STAY asleep?  4

There are two main types of insomnia: trouble falling asleep, and trouble staying asleep. If you’re having trouble falling asleep, check out my article Help! I can’t fall asleep! If you’re having trouble staying asleep, then you’re in the right place! Today, we are going to address the most common cause of difficulty staying asleep, and how to reverse it so you can sleep through the night.

The #1, most common, cause of waking up in the middle of the night, or frequent waking, is blood sugar imbalance. The two things that contribute most to blood sugar imbalance at night is improper eating and adrenal imbalance.

So what happens?

It’s pretty common for people to eat their dinner TOO EARLY. Now this isn’t my problem, I actually have the opposite problem, in that I eat too late, which has its own set of problems (that I’m working on!)… but when discussing lifestyle and habits with my patients, I often find that they’re eating their dinner too early. When someone eats their dinner around 5pm, then goes to sleep around 10pm, they’ve burned through most of their available blood sugar already. Because of this, a couple hours after they’ve fallen asleep, their blood sugar drops. This alerts the body that blood sugar has fallen, so the body “snaps” into protective mode. Your body essentially turns on a siren saying, “You’re blood sugar is LOW!! Danger!! But don’t worry, I’m gonna fix it! I’m gonna give you a little blood sugar spike so we can keep working!!” Your body does this by using cortisol and norepinephrine to break fuel stores in the liver to give a blood sugar spike. Cortisol and norepinephrine, as you may remember, are substances the body uses for wakefulness and alertness, so when your body tries to adjust itself and balance its blood sugar, it’s going to also wake you up with a little dose of fight-or-flight.

To prevent this, eat your meal a little later, say 7pm (for a 10pm bedtime). And make sure it is a complete, well balanced meal. You need good protein, good fat (yes, fat is GOOD for you, just make sure it’s good fat! For more information on good fats, see the menu to the right), and good carbohydrates. The balanced meal with supply your body with the proper ingredients to slowly release sugar into the blood at a slow and steady rate so that you can sleep through the night.

Now if you’re adrenals are off, which for most of us, they are because we work too hard and are too stressed, and drink too much caffeine… then they can be contributing to this problem by mixing up the signals for proper blood sugar regulation. To combat this, you can take some adrenal support in the morning to help your adrenals to be better regulators. Adaptogenic herbs like ashwaghanda are great for adrenal support. My favorite adrenal support formula is  Xtra by Univera.  Optimal Adrenal by Seeking Health is another great adrenal support formula.

In summary:

*Eat a little later, 7pm is optimal for a 10pm bedtime.

*Make sure your dinner is well balanced, protein, fat, and carb!

*Work on reducing stress and caffeine so your adrenals don’t have to work so hard

*Consider an adrenal support supplement like Xtra by Univera  or  Optimal Adrenal by Seeking Health to help restore proper adrenal function.

If after trying some of these you still are waking up, talk to your acupuncturist, naturopath, or doctor so that they can help you to find what else might be going on. Sleep is essential for your health so getting to the bottom of what is keeping you up is very important!

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4 thoughts on “Help! How do I STAY asleep? 

  • Veronica

    You should read about the biphasic sleep schedule. It can be perfectly normal to awaken in the middle of the night for a couple hours and then resume the second phase of sleep. This is what many people used to do in europe before artificial lighting, televisions and electronics.

    • Courtney M. Zeller, MSA, EAMP, LAc

      While that may be normal, and maybe even healthy for some lifetstyles, the average person in America is working an 8-10 hour job during the day and needs adequate sleep at night. They don’t have the luxury of sleeping in two separate phases like that (though I do have some patients who do, and do it very well and healthily!) Even those who are more predisposed to that type of sleep can essentially, “hack” their sleep and routines to get their full 8 hours during the night so that they can be at the highest level of functioning for their work, family, etc. schedules.
      But a very good point, and something that I’ve found very interesting over the years!