Blood sugar disorders inhibit blood flow to the brain. Low or high blood sugar also contributes to inflammation in the brain. Neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, melatonin, and GABA that help you feel good and sleep well are sabotaged by poor blood sugar balance.

Blood sugar roller coaster

If you start your day with pastry and a cup of coffee, your blood sugar is going to spike really high. Your body will release insulin to lower your blood sugar, and it will also release the stress hormones epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine. Once your blood sugar lowers, your body is going to crave quick energy to raise it to normal levels again. So if you eat more refined sugar or carbohydrate food or drinks, your blood sugar will spike again and you are on the blood sugar roller coaster.

If you’re on the roller coaster during the day, that wild ride continues into the night. When your blood sugar levels drop too low during the night, your body releases those stimulating stress hormones, causing you to feel wired and awake. This is a common reason why many of my clients wake up in the night and have a hard time falling back asleep.

It’s also possible for people to eat a healthy diet without refined sugar or carbohydrates and still have blood sugar issues. This can happen when cortisol gets disregulated and different systems in your body start breaking down based on your unique metabolic weak links.

The blood sugar roller coaster is one of the main reasons why your brain degenerates. If you have trouble learning, brain fog, lack of passion or motivation, loss of taste, poor balance, trouble digesting food, depression or anxiety, or poor performance at work, your brain isn’t functioning as it should.

When you get spacey, light-headed, dull or have shaking hands between meals, your blood sugar is too low. If you get energy after eating meals, that means that your blood sugar was too low beforehand. Some other symptoms of low blood sugar include:

• Not being hungry in the morning.

• Feeling nauseous first thing in the morning.

• Having a drastic energy dip in the afternoon.

• Waking up at 3 or 4 a.m. full of energy.

• Difficulty concentrating between meals.

• High blood sugar and insulin resistance.

If your blood sugar is too high, glucose can’t get into your cells, and so it makes you sleepy and slow. When you have high blood sugar, your body will release insulin to carry sugar out of your bloodstream and put it into your fat cells for storage. When this happens too often, the cells refuse to let insulin in, causing insulin resistance. This resistance is similar to what happens with cocaine, when you need more and more of the drug to feel the effects. When you have insulin resistance, excess glucose and insulin are in your bloodstream causing inflammation, hormone imbalance, and neurotransmitter imbalances.

Symptoms of insulin resistance include:

• Feeling tired after meals.

• Sugar cravings after meals.

• Difficulty losing weight.

• Your waist is bigger than your hips.

• Need to urinate frequently.

• Increase appetite.

Insulin resistance causes increased testosterone in women and increased estrogen in men, leading to hormone imbalances that can cause sleep issues.

Too much insulin is also inflammatory for the brain. Whenever your insulin is too high it lowers your brain’s ability to clear the plaques that cause Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is sometimes referred to as type 3 diabetes because of the effects that blood sugar has on the brain.

Every time you become hypoglycemic or need a nap due to insulin resistance you’re killing off neurons in your brain.

Serotonin deficiency

Insulin also affects neurotransmitter production. You need the right amount of insulin to make neurotransmitters. One important transmitter for sleep is serotonin. If you don’t have enough insulin, not enough tryptophan goes to your brain. Then you don’t make enough serotonin, making you feel depressed and awake at night. Symptoms of serotonin deficiency are depression or lack of enjoyment, PMS, paranoia and poor sleep. A sure sign of serotonin deficiency is craving carbohydrates.

Martha Lewis

Martha Lewis

To balance blood sugar, avoid refined sugar and carbohydrates and always eat carbohydrates with fat and protein. Find out your metabolic type and balance your meals and snacks with the appropriate ratio of macronutrients (carbs, fat and protein).

If you wake up in the night, try eating a small snack before bed, about 100 to 200 calories, with complex carbs, healthy fat and protein.

Do a food sensitivity test and avoid foods you’re sensitive to. (Food sensitivities cause blood sugar fluctuations and insulin surges.)

I know what I’ve written makes it sound like sugar is bad and should be avoided at all costs. I do believe that we should enjoy food. But if you have trouble sleeping, have any health issues or have symptoms of high or low blood sugar, you want to avoid sugar to restore your health.

If you have blood sugar issues and you aren’t sleeping, your body isn’t healthy. The only way to get better is to find everything that’s causing stress in your body and mind and correct them. You want to look at gut health, hormone balance, minerals, food sensitivities, mental stress and more. Diet, exercise and random supplements aren’t enough to get back in balance so you can sleep normally. Functional lab testing will show what’s going on in your body that’s causing your sleep issues so we know what to correct. Your sleep is always figure-outable.

As always, wishing you a good night’s sleep.

Martha Lewis is a certified Sleep Sense consultant and owner of The Complete Sleep Solution. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook @completesleepsolution. Email her at

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