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Navigating a Restful Sleep: The Crucial Link Between Blood Sugar Balance and Quality Sleep

Sleep is a fundamental pillar of our overall health and well-being, yet so many of us struggle to achieve a restful night's sleep. I often tell my patients, "if you’re not getting restorative sleep during the night, your body will not be able to heal itself." Tossing and turning, waking up frequently, or feeling exhausted upon waking are all common experiences that can disrupt sleep patterns. While there are various factors that contribute to sleep disturbances, one overlooked aspect is often blood sugar balance.

puppy sleeping under blanket

When it comes to blood sugar, fluctuations throughout the day can have profound effects on our energy levels, mood, and sleep quality. One study found that “a growing body of evidence suggests that nutrition, physical activity, and sleep hygiene can significantly affect the quality of sleep” [1], meaning the food we eat during the day can greatly impact our sleep during the night.

So what does balanced blood sugar mean? Blood sugar balance refers to the maintenance of blood glucose levels within the body. Glucose, a type of sugar, is the primary source of energy for cells and is derived from the foods we eat, particularly carbohydrates. When a carbohydrate isn’t properly paired with a protein, we can get a spike in insulin which can then lead to hypoglycemia or low blood sugar levels. Hypoglycemia can cause symptoms such as dizziness, shakiness, and/or confusion.

Hypoglycemia can occur during the night when adequate protein hasn’t been consumed during the day. When blood sugar starts to dip while sleeping, your adrenals will release cortisol as a part of the body's natural response to hypoglycemia. Cortisol helps raise blood sugar levels by stimulating the liver to convert glycogen (stored glucose) into glucose through a process called glycogenolysis. This process helps provide a steady supply of glucose to the bloodstream during fasting periods, such as overnight. The elevated cortisol levels can leave you feeling wide awake, and one can experience difficulty getting back to sleep.

So how much protein should you be consuming? General guidelines suggest 0.8 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day for adult males and 0.8 to 1.0 grams for females. Athletes require more protein, and according to one study: protein intakes in the range of 1.3-1.8 g · kg can help to build muscle [2].

Please keep in mind that individuals with certain medical diagnoses, such as kidney disease, liver disease, or metabolic disorders, may have specific dietary requirements or restrictions regarding protein consumption. Additionally, those with allergies or intolerances to certain proteins should exercise caution and consult with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian before making significant changes to their diet.

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  1. Sejbuk M, Mirończuk-Chodakowska I, Witkowska AM. Sleep Quality: A Narrative Review on Nutrition, Stimulants, and Physical Activity as Important Factors. Nutrients. 2022 May 2;14(9):1912. doi: 10.3390/nu14091912. PMID: 35565879; PMCID: PMC9103473.

  2. Phillips SM, Van Loon LJ. Dietary protein for athletes: from requirements to optimum adaptation. J Sports Sci. 2011;29 Suppl 1:S29-38. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2011.619204. PMID: 22150425


This information is generalized and intended for educational purposes only. Due to potential individual contraindications, please see your primary care provider before implementing any strategies in these posts.



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