Efficient control of your blood sugar level is incredibly important for your overall health.
Many factors influence how well you can regulate your blood sugar, but did you know sleep is one of them?
In this blog, you’ll learn about how sleep impacts blood sugar control and what this means for your health.
Your body likes stability. Otherwise known as homeostasis, chemicals in your bloodstream should be kept within healthy ranges – enough for your body’s needs, yet not excessive. One essential substance your body needs to keep under strict control is the amount of sugar in your blood.
Sugar circulates in blood in a form known as glucose, and it’s essential to provide energy to every single cell in your body. Too much, though, can damage your blood vessels and nerves. So your body has developed sophisticated mechanisms to keep your blood sugar within specific margins at any one time.
It does this by releasing insulin after meals when sugar from food causes blood glucose to rise. Insulin allows the glucose to be shunted into cells to be used as energy. When blood glucose falls again, another hormone, glucagon, is released to liberate sugar from storage. So although there will be natural fluctuations in blood sugar throughout the day – after a meal, for example, or when energy is used for exercising – ideally it’s kept within the narrow safe zone.
If you eat a meal containing quickly-absorbed refined sugar, blood glucose shoots up high very quickly. Sometimes, excessive insulin is pumped out in a knee-jerk reaction. Then, because too much glucose is removed from your blood, down blood sugar crashes. Big spikes and dips in your blood sugar are bad news for your health.
Researchers asked volunteers to wear fitness bands to record how long and how well they slept. They then tested how effectively their bodies controlled blood glucose after food was eaten the following morning.
Going to bed later and having less quality sleep was linked with poorer blood sugar control after eating breakfast the next day. This was particularly pronounced with high carbohydrate or high sugar breakfasts like sweet cereals or croissants. These tax your body’s homeostatic mechanisms because the sugar they contain is released rapidly into your bloodstream. Even if the night owls slept later the next morning, getting the same amount of sleep as the ones who turned in early, their blood sugar control the following morning was still worse.
Researchers also found a change from a person’s usual bedtime routine, even for just one day, led to poorer glucose control. So, if you usually go to bed around 10.30pm during the week, staying up until midnight at the weekend will disrupt your blood sugar control.
These discoveries support other research finding later bedtimes are linked to chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity. One study revealed people who usually go to bed after 11pm have a 12% higher risk of heart disease than those whose bedtimes were between 10pm and 11pm. The risk rose to 25% higher in people who habitually went to bed after midnight. Constant peaking and troughing of blood sugar damages blood vessels around the heart, putting you at an increased risk of these diseases over time.
It’s all very well going to bed early, but what if you don’t sleep well? Good sleep quality, as measured by whether you’re able to stay asleep for most of the night, also reduces those large blood sugar increases after breakfast the next day. People who don’t sleep well have more blood glucose fluctuations, particularly after eating sugary foods, often those very foods craved after a poor night’s sleep.
If you have a bad night’s sleep, or you’re someone who works night shifts, opt for a low-sugar, high protein breakfast the next day. Stay off the sugary cereals, white bread or energy drinks. Try eggs, avocados, or yoghurt with berries, nuts and seeds instead.
So now you know small changes to your sleep can have a profound effect on your health. If you’d like to discover other simple changes you can make to your lifestyle and diet to optimise your health and blood sugar control, contact Embracing Nutrition today to start your journey towards a healthier you.
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