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.
*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
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!