Sleep is critical to a healthy body and mind. Additionally, your sleep should not be interrupted. Many people complain of waking in the middle of the night and not being able to fall back asleep. Continue reading to learn more about why you may being waking up, and how to stay asleep during the night.
The primary reason for waking in the middle of the night is nocturnal hypoglycemia (low blood sugar at night). The cells in your body (especially brain cells) are dependent on a steady supply of glucose/“sugar” to function normally. When blood sugar levels drop below normal, the body considers this an “emergency.” During an emergency, the body releases stress hormones (cortisol and/or adrenaline/epinephrine). If this “emergency” occurs in the middle of the night, these stress hormones will wake you up.
Blood sugar is monitored in the body via the hormones insulin and glucagon. When blood sugar levels drop, glucagon is produced in order to signal the body to break down stored sugar (glycogen) or protein (muscle tissue) in order to raise blood sugar levels.
If there are sufficient glycogen stores, adrenaline will be released in order to break it down into glucose to raise blood sugar. If there are insufficient glycogen stores, the body will release cortisol in order to convert protein (muscle) into glucose to raise blood sugar. Again, both of these substances will cause you to wake up and become alert, not allowing you to fall back asleep right away. Also, cortisol has an opposing effect on melatonin, the “sleep hormone.” When melatonin levels are not optimal, you will not go into REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, or restorative sleep.
Nocturnal hypoglycemia is therefore related to an imbalance in blood sugar levels throughout the night. This can be the result of many different factors. Blood sugar instability throughout the daytime will certainly affect how your levels are at night. Some contributing factors include but are not limited to: insufficient protein intake, excessive or insufficient carbohydrate intake, food intolerances, caffeine consumption, excessive or improper exercise, hormonal imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, medications, and mental and/or emotional stress.
I use a variety of techniques in the office to determine exactly which factor(s) are contributing to nocturnal hypoglycemia. Very often, this is a simple condition to correct and helps patients get a proper night’s sleep.
Lastly, if you fall back asleep after eating some protein and/or carbohydrates when you wake in the middle of the night, you can be almost certain that you are experiencing nocturnal hypoglycemia. However, the underlying cause(s) still need to be addressed in order to prevent it from occurring.
I hope this helps you sleep better at night.
Dr. Rob D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Diplomate and board-certified teacher of the International College of Applied Kinesiology