Sleep issues are unfortunately a common thing that I see with clients. Many people have experienced at least some episodes of insomnia or sleep disturbance during their life – some experience it regularly. And while there is plenty of discussion around insomnia and what may be underlying it, there is less around reasons why you wake in the middle of the night and how you can prevent it… so let’s get to it!
1. Your have low blood sugars.
Our typically high carbohydrate (especially of the refined kind) can wreak havoc on our blood sugars – and you don’t have to be a diabetic or overweight to suffer. Not only can unstable blood sugars cause energy slumps during the day, but they can also cause you to wake through the night. It is vitally important that the body keeps your blood sugars regulated between a narrow range – throughout the day this can be controlled by eating – and efficiently controlled by eating the right types of food at suitable intervals. However, while you are sleep you are undergoing a long period of fasting, therefore the body must rely on mechanisms other than food to prevent hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar). In order to spare you the chemistry lesson for today (unless of course you want it, in which case please let me know in the comments box below!), I will jump straight to the problem and the solution…
PROBLEM – high carbohydrate evening meal, drink or dessert including things like pizza, pasta, noodles, icecream, chocolate, soft drink, juice, alcohol etc…
PROBLEM – insufficient protein and fat with evening meal
SOLUTION – consume lower glycaemic carbohydrates at night, combined with a full portion of protein, fat and fibre. The good old meat and 3 veg (and I mean veggies served with organic butter or a drizzle of flax or olive oil!) would be a great option. Alternatively you could have a protein smoothie or some Greek yoghurt for dessert.
2. You have an underlying condition.
I know that sounds really vague and obvious, but stay with me! In Traditional Chinese Medicine, they believe that each organ has a peak performance time, and an impairment of function in this organ will cause issues around that particular time. For example if you typically wake between the hours of 1am and 3am, it could be related to your liver. Always waking before your alarm? Your large intestines could be to blame.
3. You need to wee.
Some people just need to wee in the middle of the night, and for them it can be fairly normal. For others, it can become extremely debilitating, waking multiple times throughout the night and never managing to get a deep sleep. And while this can be directly related to the amount of fluid (including caffeine and alcohol) you have consumed before bed time, it can also be indicative of something more sinister. The three main conditions to consider would be diabetes, prostate cancer (if you are male) or a urinary tract infection (more commonly if you are female).
4. You have sleep apnoea.
Interestingly, if you have sleep apnoea you may not even realise you are waking throughout the night. Sleep apnoea is a condition that involves the cessation or severe reduction of airflow during sleep. This results in a reduced circulation of oxygen in the blood and causes the person to wake. However, in severe cases this can be occurring hundreds of times through the night, and you may not even realise that you have woken. So why is it an issue if I don’t know I’m awake? Well, the disruption in sleep cycle means you are never having a restful sleep and therefore may suffer from fatigue, headaches, irritability, low mood as well as other physical and cognitive symptoms.
5. You have noisy neighbours (or other environmental issues)
Sometimes the cause of a poor night’s sleep can be as simple as what is going on around you. If you have noisy neighbours (including the feathered and furred varieties), traffic noise, or even the subtle “ting” of an arriving email or text message, it may be enough to wake you. While some external noise is unavoidable and rare, if it is recurrent for you then you may want to consider:
- Locking pets in a separate room
- Removing all electronic devices from your bedroom (or at least putting them on silent)
- Evicting your neighbours (just kidding)
- Investing in some earplugs – this one isn’t a joke! It may not be glamourous, but neither are the effects of sleep deprivation
Speaking of the effects of sleep deprivation, it is important to realise that they go far beyond just feeling tired the next day.
Sleep is restorative for the body, therefore a lack of sleep results in a reduced ability to repair and heal. It also impairs immune function making you more susceptible to illness. Sleep enables the body to consolidate new information, locking in memories and new things that you have learned. It ensures the proper utilisation of insulin and therefore helps to stabilise blood sugar levels and weight. Adequate sleep improves mood, fertility, longevity, reduces inflammatory markers and the list goes on…
Needless to say it is vitally important to have a good night’s (unbroken) sleep. Is sleep something that you struggle with? Or do you have tips on how to have the best sleep possible? I would love to hear your thoughts below, or feel free to CONTACT ME to schedule an appointment.