How Sugar Affects Sleep

Halloween boys in costume

With Halloween approaching, it’s hard to avoid taking a walk down the candy aisle at the grocery store to see what kind of goodies are on sale for the event. Even if you aren’t trick or treating with your kids or providing candy at your front door, it takes a strong will not to take advantage of the buy one get one free deals for chocolate bars! But for people who already struggle with sleeping, adding sugar to the mix can be detrimental to their sleep health.

Most people know that sugar makes kids hyper, but it can cause high energy spikes relative to caffeine in adults, too. Maybe eating a couple of bite size candy bars before bed doesn’t seem like it will do much harm, but the sugars in those treats, especially combined with other factors, can cause minor to severe insomnia symptoms. 

When you sleep, your body finds ways to regulate your blood sugar levels. Whether you’re awake or asleep, your sugar levels will increase as your body works to break down excess sugars from the day. Because of this, circadian rhythms play a huge part in your blood sugar levels, which means when the circadian rhythm is off, so are your sugar levels. 

If the blood sugar levels are rising while you sleep, how do they regulate themselves back down? Well, healthy sleep has been shown to play a big part in regulation. It all comes down to keeping a regular sleep schedule and healthy sleep habits so that you can keep your body in its natural circadian rhythm, which we’ve discussed before.

Blood sugar levels have been shown to be affected by the length of time someone sleeps, the stages of sleep someone experiences, when the person sleeps (day or night), and a person’s age. Insulin, glucose, and cortisol levels increase when a person sleeps less or sleeps at different times than is normal for their circadian rhythm.

Low or high blood sugars can cause problems while sleeping. For example, people experiencing lower blood sugar levels may experience more nightmares, sweating, and restless sleep. Higher blood sugar can cause restlessness, trouble falling asleep, and the inability to enter REM sleep. 

Because sugar has a lot of the same effects as caffeine does on sleep, it’s important to avoid consuming it too close to bedtime, even if it seems like a small amount. Halloween can be the exception, but make sure to keep your candy consumption minimal and early in the day!

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