Tuesday’s conversation may have focused on sleepless kids, but I trust I don’t need to point out that insomnia affects a lot of adults, too—nearly 30 percent of them, to be exact.
That’s almost a third of the adult population—a staggering statistic by any standard. And just like obesity, the Standard American Diet (SAD) is at least partly to blame for this public health crisis.
That’s the takeaway of a recent study featured in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, at least. Let’s dive right in…
High on sugar, short on sleep
Columbia University researchers collected data from 50,000 women who completed food diaries as part of the Women’s Health Initiative. The goal was to see whether women who ate a high glycemic index (GI) diet—in other words, a diet chock-full of sugar and carbs—were more likely to suffer from insomnia.
And do you want to take a wild guess what they discovered?
Ultimately, the higher the GI of the subjects’ diets, the greater the insomnia risk. And that was especially true when women’s primary source of fuel was added sugars and refined, processed grains.
Meanwhile, women who consumed more fresh vegetables and whole fruits—not fruit juices—were less likely to develop insomnia. (Yet another reminder that your body really doesn’t recognize the difference between fruit juice and sugary soda—and while I recommend limiting fruit intake in general, you shouldn’t touch juice with a 10-foot pole.)
The subjects in this study were postmenopausal—a population that already suffers higher rates of insomnia. But given the fact that we all generally react to simple carbs in the same way, the researchers feel safe speculating that this risk applies to everyone.
And, well… I couldn’t agree more. Especially since the connection between high-sugar diets and insomnia is about as predictable as they get.
Cortisol keeps you wide awake
When your blood sugar spikes quickly, your body floods with insulin. This often leads to a state of reactive hypoglycemia, in which your blood sugar plummets in response. This stresses your body, leading to the release of hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.
And as your body’s “alarm clock” hormone, it’s not hard to imagine the problems that a midnight spike in cortisol might cause.
Here’s how it works: When you’re healthy, cortisol levels peak around 8 a.m. You hop out of bed ready to start the day—and you don’t even reach for the snooze button on your alarm.
On the other hand, cortisol levels should be at their lowest between midnight and 4 a.m.—when most people are sleeping soundly.
If your cortisol levels are high when they shouldn’t be, you’ll be too wide awake to sleep. But cortisol also plays a role in blood sugar regulation. And if it dips too low, it could take your glucose levels with it.
This floods your body with adrenaline. And it wakes you up in a wired, desperate search for emergency fuel—usually in the form of carbs or sugar—right around 3 in the morning.
So those middle-of-the-night fridge raids? Well, they actually point to some serious hormone problems. But if you fix the imbalances, you won’t be waking up starving in the middle of the night anymore. In fact, you won’t be waking up in the middle of the night at all.
As always, a healthy, balanced diet is one way to help fix the imbalances—which is why I continuously recommend my delicious A-List Diet. But of course, that’s just one key component of a perfect night’s sleep.
For a comprehensive guide to tackling sleep trouble for good, look no further than my Perfect Sleep Protocol—which provides simple, step-by-step instructions to get a restful night’s sleep every night. To learn more about this comprehensive, online learning tool, or to enroll today, click here now!
“Refined carbs may trigger insomnia, finds study.” Science Daily, 12/11/2019. (sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/12/191211171335.htm)