The Effects of Sugar on Sleep
Are you still struggling with a lack of sleep?
Even after being diagnosed with sleep apnea and undergoing CPAP therapy, you might still encounter restless nights that lead to insomnia.
Unfortunately, your situation has become all too common in our stressed-out, fast-paced, modern world. Among the numerous daily responsibilities, quality sleep often takes the back burner, and the consequences show up in our health.
Sleep is an essential need in life; we need it to function both mentally and physically. Getting enough sleep is a vital, dynamic part of a healthy lifestyle. The body needs adequate rest each night for a variety of reasons, including:
- strengthening the immune system
- proper digestion
- maintaining hormonal balance
- supporting cognitive health
Even if you have been diagnosed with sleep apnea and are treating it with a CPAP protocol, making lifestyle modifications, including losing weight, reducing inflammation, improving your diet, and starting a regular exercise routine, can significantly enhance your condition and improve your circadian rhythm patterns.
What Causes Poor Sleep?
Poor sleep can be caused by many factors, such as stress and sleep disorders. However, the quality of sleep also depends on the things you do during the day.
Too much stimulation before bedtime, consuming too much caffeine, noise disturbances, an uncomfortable bedroom, sleeping too much during the day, lack of exposure to sunlight, work schedules, and some prescription medications may also lead to difficulty sleeping.
Our food choices influence our digestive and metabolic health and sleep habits, especially diets high in sugar.
Sugar and Sleep
A regular sugar habit can set in motion a cycle of disrupted sleep and an overstimulated appetite that is tough to break.
On top of that, consuming too much sugar during the day can lead to an energy crash. Eating lots of sugary foods reduces the activity of what are called orexin cells. To avoid the commonly known "sugar crash," our blood sugar levels need to be stabilized by reducing high-sugar and refined foods, typically food with added sugars, and replacing them with complex carbohydrates or "carbs" as they are more commonly known, like whole grains.
A diet high in sugar is also associated with lighter, less restorative sleep with more arousals. Refined carbs (sugar) delay our body's melatonin release, a hormone that controls our sleep-wake cycle. Thus, diet and other lifestyle habits such as stress and inconsistent bed routines could be sabotaging efforts to get much-needed rest.
Poor sleep is also associated with a greater intake of sweetened caffeinated sodas, to help us stay awake and alert during the day, but in reality, they lead to more intrusions that pull you out of deep sleep. Not only does sugar lead to poor sleep, but insufficient sleep also affects sugar consumption. That's because when we're tired from lack of sleep, we tend to consume more sugar or unhealthy foods. It's a vicious cycle.
As you begin prioritizing sleep and modify simple lifestyle habits, especially sugar intake, you will start to experience more restful nights and reap the full benefits of CPAP treatment.
Effects of Sugar on Sleep
- Higher sleep onset latency (takes longer to get to sleep)
- Lower quality sleep overall
- High levels of glucose inhibit an important peptide called orexin, which is responsible for feelings of alertness.
- May lead to hypoglycemia or prediabetes
In short: sleep and sugar don't mix.
Consuming Sugar Before Bedtime
We all enjoy after-dinner desserts. The problem is that consuming sugar, especially before bedtime, can negatively impact our sleep quality, making us feel exhausted the next day.
We don't mean to rain on your parade; we love National Ice Cream Day, but we also love good quality sleep. On that note, we recommend introducing balance and moderation to your eating habits.
Lifestyle habits can play a leading role in the quality of sleep. You can improve your sleep hygiene with these helpful tips:
Lifestyle Habits to Improve Sleep
- Don't go to bed until you are tired
- Drink more water during the day, but not so close to bedtime to avoid mid-night bathroom runs
- Set a regular wake-up schedule, even on weekends
- Avoid napping during the day
- Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine at night
- Limit watching TV, scrolling on your phone, eating, or reading in bed
- Set a bedtime ritual to get your mind and body prepared for sleep
- Set the mood: dark and quiet room and clean bed sheets
- Try a meditation practice to quiet the mind and help you relax
- Last but not least, decrease sugar intake
- Avoid late night eating
Consequences of Sleep Deprivation
The effects of lack of sleep on your body can be felt the next day— low energy levels, irritability, and fatigue. However, lack of sleep also has long-term health effects, which is why it's so important to prioritize sleep. Trouble sleeping or lack of sleep can interfere with the function and production of appetite regulating hormones like leptin and ghrelin.
Lack of Sleep Can Cause:
- poor concentration
- high blood pressure
- weight gain
- poor balance
- risk for diabetes
- a compromised immune system
- memory problems
Improving Your Sleep
Implement a few small changes to your diet that could help you sleep better almost immediately.
A low-sugar, high-fiber diet that focuses on whole, unprocessed foods will help keep your gut healthy and help you sleep better. Refined sugars produce rapid fluctuations in your blood glucose levels, which could cause an adrenaline rush that would make it difficult to fall asleep. If sugary foods are keeping you awake, try to limit them in the latter part of the day as well; everyone's body works a little differently, and cutting back on your consumption of sugar might do the trick for you.
Eating well throughout the day, enjoying a protein-packed breakfast to counteract fluctuating blood-sugar levels can help you rely less on sugar and caffeine to support you through the day and help you achieve healthy sleep patterns and a good night's sleep.
Written by The Sleeplay Team