It’s widely known, and true, that eating a large meal just before bed is not a good idea and will result in a restless sleep and horrible indigestion. With this knowledge we’ve all been able to avoid nights of tossing and turning, but we’ve also become overly paranoid about eating food in the evening.

Rather than ease hunger with a snack before bed, many people decide to sleep with an aching, hungry stomach. It seams like this would encourage weight loss and wouldn’t interfere with your sleeping ability, but this is entirely false.

I don’t know about you, but if I have dinner at 7:00pm and go to bed at 11pm, I’m definitely going to need a little snack before bed to tide me over until morning. Which begs the question, is your hunger causing insomnia?

To Eat or Not to Eat, That Is The Question

After a high carbohydrate meal, insulin is released to offset the rapid increase in blood glucose production, bringing glucose levels back to normal. If glucose levels fall too low, our body produces cortisol and epinephrine, which helps breakdown stored glucose to bring levels back up.

The standard North American sugar-high diet and sedentary lifestyle over-burden these natural control mechanisms described above. As a result, diabetes and hypoglycemia have become extremely common in America and thus, many people have poor blood glucose control.

When someone with dysfunctional control mechanisms goes a long period of time without eating, their body will release cortisol and epinephrine, resulting in high energy levels. If this occurs at bedtime, good luck getting a good night’s rest.

Are You Hypoglycaemic?

Take the test below, and find out for sure.

Symptoms None Mild Moderate Severe
Do you crave Sweets? 0 1 2 3
Are you irritable if you skip a meal? 0 1 2 3
Do you feel tired or weak if you skip a meal? 0 1 2 3
Do you suffer from frequent headaches? 0 1 2 3
Do you suffer from poor memory (forgetfulness) or concentration? 0 1 2 3
Do you get heart palpitations? 0 1 2 3
Do you feel shaky at times? 0 1 2 3
Do you suffer from afternoon fatigue (Mid-day slump)? 0 1 2 3
Does your vision blur every now and then? 0 1 2 3
Do you suffer from depression or mood swings? 0 1 2 3
Are you overweight? 0 1 2 3
Are you frequently anxious or nervous? 0 1 2 3

 

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When you’re finished, add up your total score.

  • If you have a score below 5, you are likely not hypoglycemic
  • If you have a score between 6 and 15, hypoglycemia could be a factor in your life.
  • If your score is above 15 then you likely have hypoglycemia

(Adapted from Pizzorno et al., 2010)

Always remember that there can be other causes for the symptoms above and that if you have the slightest inkling that you are hypoglycemic, you should visit a healthcare professional right away.

If you think you could be suffering from insomnia due to hypoglycemia, try these healthy, bedtime snacks to get a more restful sleep.

3 Other Reasons Why A Quick Snack Before Bed is Harmless

1. Point of No Return

We’ve referred to this before, but to refresh your memory, “the point of no return” is a point where you get so hungry that nothing will satisfy your hunger but a huge bowl of pasta, a giant sub sandwich, or a fast food burger. Your body is yelling “carbs… now!!!” and it’s nearly impossible to ignore this shouting.

When you go to bed hungry, you often wake up at this point and eat the first thing that appears in front of you, or the easiest thing you can pop into your mouth. As you can imagine, this won’t be a put together breakfast like an omelet or fruit salad with granola; it will most likely be a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a bowl of cereal. Not great.

Or you could have a tiny snack before bed and avoid this altogether.

2. Promotes Weight Loss

Weight loss is not about when you eat, it’s about eating the right things. When your body is hungry, it’s telling you that its lacking. Satisfying that lacking will encourage your body to work at its optimal performance levels.

When you eat the right amount of food before bed your blood sugars stabilize and your body is able to produce glucagon; a hormone that encourages fat burning.

3. Strengthens Immune System

Just because you’ve shut down when you’re asleep, doesn’t mean your body has. You have to support your metabolism throughout the day and if you starve your body before bed, your metabolism won’t have the opportunity to do its job.

When your metabolism works through the night you’re able to have a productive sleep filled with weight-loss and fat-burning.

I also recommend reading about other factors that affect your sleeping habits. If you scored below 5 on our hypoglycaemic test there are in fact other reasons you could be tossing and turning.

Sleep tight!

References:

1) National Sleep Foundation. www.sleepfoundation.org

2) Pizzorno J, Murray M. The Textbook of Natural Medicine. 4th Churchill Livingstone. 2012

3) Perlmutter L, et al. Glycemic Control and Hypoglycemia. Diabetes Care. 2008 Oct; 31(10): 2072–2076

4) Non-diabetic Hypoglycemia. http://www.drugs.com/cg/non-diabetic-hypoglycemia.html

5) Hamdy O. Hypoglycemia. Medscape. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/122122-overview

6) Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology, 12th Elsevier. 2011. Chapter 34; 1552-1557.

7) http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Bad-Go-Bed-Hungry-36081998

Image Sources:

http://www.csus.edu/indiv/l/loom/wk%209/blood%20sugar.jpg

http://www.skinnymom.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Metabolism_Feature.jpg

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_PAhMdnQ7E0k/THU6uGvv2vI/AAAAAAAAAjc/V384FmajpXg/s1600/0824102151+(2).jpg

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Dr. Nadia Saleem
Naturopathic Doctor
Contributor to The Hearty Soul.