As you discovered in part 1 of this sleep series, dietary choices impact blood sugar levels and hormones, which help regulate sleep.
However, diet is not always to blame for sleep disturbances.
How does it impact sleep?
When mental or physical stress exceeds the unique capacity of a person’s brain and body to manage it, damage starts to occur.
Stress alone causes an imbalance in blood sugar levels and hormones. Both of these changes negatively alter healthy sleep cycles.
Therefore, even people eating a low sugar and low carbohydrate diet, such as keto or paleo, can have poor quality sleep due to a blood sugar imbalance.
When mental stress increases, the need for sufficient, high quality nutrients also rises in tandem. 20-30% of calories consumed are used up by the brain. That is a high energy demand considering the brain accounts for only approximately 2% of a person’s body weight.
Consider you are given a huge assignment at work with a tight deadline. As you power through that task, your brain is challenged. Consequently, during that time period, your brain would burn through fuel at a more accelerated rate compared to your brain in a relaxed state.
Sometimes we think of stress purely as a mental burden. That is one type of stress, but there are so many other stress factors that impact the body physically.
Stress can be caused by an inflamed digestive system, surgery, anesthesia, a long-term infection, medications, inflammation, mold exposure, food sensitivities/ allergies, excessively strenuous exercise, and being very sedentary.
Here is an example. You are frequently eating a food to which you are sensitive or allergic. Each time that unwanted food enters your digestive system and blood stream, your body sees it as an invader and responds accordingly with a stress response.
A low grade but frequent stress drains your body of its limited supply of stress hormones, which rally the body in times of emergency.
How Stress Impacts Blood Sugar
Stress is demanding on the body. The brain and body have very specific nutrient needs when combating acute or chronic stress. Most people are deficient in the types of fat, minerals, protein, and vitamins needed.
In times of stress, the body and brain first burn through the easily accessible energy reserves. It uses nutrients in the blood stream and sugar stored in the muscles. However, once those supplies are depleted, the body starts to take more desperate moves to provide sufficient fuel to survive the bout of stress.
In the absence of sufficient fuel, an overly taxed body starts breaking down muscle and converting it into usable fuel. Yikes! This process leads to poor muscle tone and a loss in strength. Also, it throws off the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar properly. As you learned in part 1 of this sleep series, blood sugar imbalance leads to sleep disturbances.
The Nutrient Steal
The stressed body also steals nutrients, such as minerals, previously delineated for building healthy hormones. It reassigns them for combating stress, enabling you to survive another day. Now other hormones don’t have the resources needed to function properly.
Hormones, specifically melatonin and cortisol, regulate sleep. Melatonin helps the brain to wind down at night. Cortisol should rise in the morning, boosting the brain and body with energy needed to tackle the day.
When the body is extremely stressed, sometimes these hormones get flipped in terms of their timing. Consequently, a person becomes wired but tired at night. He may struggle to fall asleep or to stay asleep due to cortisol pumping through this veins in the evening. However, in the morning, cortisol is too low. Without coffee, sweet cereal, bagel, or donut, he may struggle to mentally and physically rally for the day.
#1. Identify Internal Stress Factors:
Learn what is weighing you down internally and causing a low grade stress on your system. Stop the guess work. Get tested for food allergies, nutrient depletions, digestive imbalances, inflammatory markers, and hormonal imbalances. That information will enable you to address the root cause of what is draining you and leading to sleep disruption. Interested? Click here to set up a free 15 minute chat with me about that process to see if it’s right for you.
#2. Level Up Your Brain:
Certain at home therapies can pull your brain out of a fight or flight stressed state and into a calm and controlled one. Nature therapy, deep breathing exercises, and mindset shifts are a few tools we use with clients.
Stay tuned! On Friday we’ll release our final article of this 3 part series on overcoming sleep disruptions.
If you missed part 1, click here to get access to that.