We talk about sleep a lot, but that’s because its importance cannot be overstated. Not just for weight loss, but for your health in general. Sleep is nourishing and restorative and when you don’t get enough of it, it can completely throw you off in all areas.
As we started educating our clients on the importance of sleep, we noticed an alarming trend: a large percentage of people admitted that not only do they not get enough sleep, but their sleep is unsatisfying. They toss and turn all night or fall asleep fairly quickly, but wake up throughout the night.
There was also a striking similarity in those who were having sleep trouble. A significant amount of people who admitted to unsatisfying sleep were waking up around 3 AM. While that may seem like a coincidence, there’s actually a scientific reason for it.
Why You Wake Up at 3 AM
Your body is a complex organism. Although you probably don’t think about it much, it’s constantly pumping out hormones and balancing these hormones to keep you running like a well-oiled machine. If these hormones are off-kilter, it can cause a number of symptoms—one of which is waking up in the middle of the night. One of the most common causes of waking up around 3 AM is blood sugar imbalance due to stress. Let us break it down for you.
When you’re stressed, it triggers your adrenal glands (which sit right near your kidneys) to pump out a hormone called adrenaline. In response to adrenaline, the liver releases, and your cells use up, more glycogen, the stored form of glucose, or blood sugar.
If there’s not enough glycogen in your body to replenish the stores in your liver, even more adrenaline is released. As a result, your blood sugar levels drop and you begin to feel alert and ready for action, instead of relaxed and ready for sleep.
So, What Do You Do?
Now that you know WHY you’re waking up at 3 AM consistently, the next question is: how do I fix it? The two major goals here are to 1. get your blood sugar balanced and 2. reduce your stress levels.
How to Balance Blood Sugar for Sleep:
- Eat 3 meals and 2 to 3 snacks per day. Make sure that all meals and snacks include protein, healthy fat, and healthy carbohydrates.
- Eliminate processed foods and focus only on whole, nutrient-dense foods.
- Never skip meals.
- Avoid sugar.
- Eat breakfast within an hour of waking up.
While you’re working to balance your blood sugar, here’s a helpful tip that can get you on your way to better sleep right away. Before bed each night, eat a teaspoon of raw, local honey. The honey gives your body the glucose it needs to replenish the liver’s glycogen stores. That way, your adrenals won’t cause your blood sugar to drop during the night.
How to Reduce Stress on the Adrenal Glands:
- Follow a healthy diet.
- Go to bed before 10 PM and aim for at least 7 hours of sleep.
- Avoid coffee and other caffeinated beverages.
- Engage in yoga and meditation, but avoid intense exercise.
- Get some sunlight. If this is impossible due to weather, supplement with Vitamin D.
- Make time to play or engage in activities that you enjoy.
An Important Note
Of course, stress and blood sugar imbalance is not the only cause of restless sleep. Sometimes the tossing and turning are a result of something else, like sleep apnea, consumption of alcohol, age, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Other times, it’s something more simple, like an uncomfortable mattress. It’s always best to check in with your doctor if you’re having chronic sleep troubles to make sure there’s nothing else going on.