Poor Metabolic Health: Why can’t I sleep at night even when I’m tired?
Do you have trouble sleeping?
Are you someone for whom getting a good night’s sleep is impossible.
Is your sleep problem starting to impact the quality of your work and family life?
Have you tried sleeping pills, many prescription drugs, supplements, herbal tea and all the relaxation techniques in an attempt to help you either fall asleep quickly, get better sleep, stay asleep or even just feel rested in the morning, but can’t work out why you have sleep problems.
Are you more tired of hearing about the most popular causes such as underlying stress, work deadlines, sleep problems, mental health disorders like anxiety and depression, physical illnesses and pain, medications and insomnia?
Well, the truth is they are not the reason you have sleep disturbance, they are contributors factors. None of them are actually the root cause of why you have poor sleep quality.
The real reason is that your body is using your cortisol hormones to balance blood sugars throughout the day causing circadian rhythm sleep disorders.
In our busy lives, it can be very easy to attribute sleepless nights to a host of common factors such as stress, mental health issues, body temperature, hormones and the everyday pressures of work or home life.
And whilst it’s true that these things can influence how we feel within ourselves when we can’t get restful sleep this may in fact be a clue or symptom of poor metabolic health.
If you have been managing sleep disturbance, restless legs syndrome, or struggle to get enough quality sleep, this indicates an underlying imbalance within your main metabolic pathways.
What is the impact of poor sleep habits?
Ensuring you have a consistent sleep schedule is a major factor in our lifestyle factors.
When you wake up feeling groggy and tired or have excessive daytime sleepiness it can have a huge impact on what you do or choose to eat throughout the day as you try to increase your energy levels.
More often the food choices are high energy carbohydrates, sweet treats and comfort foods which will only make you feel worse and then you are more likely to take it easy and rest all day.
There are a number of generic solutions to improve sleep nighttime habits or chronic insomnia that a quick google search will retrieve namely: not using electronic devices or watching tv before bed, keeping your feet warm and getting enough exercise, however, some of us discover that no matter what we do, we still find ourselves lying awake, and waking up feeling less than refreshed.
With that in mind, if you have sleeping problems and have been managing various other symptoms such as high blood pressure, for over two or more years with the use of over-the-counter medication or supplements alone, then your metabolic pathways are likely struggling to utilise the energy and nutrients from the food you eat and dispose of toxins properly.
But fundamentally your food choices are creating an imbalance in your blood sugars which uses too much of your cortisol hormones throughout the day in support.
I’m Jen Adams, a functional personal nutritional therapist and my purpose is to teach those who want to learn how to improve their metabolic health for energy, vitality, and future wealth and to better understand how their food and lifestyle choices affect every part of their life.
In this series of articles about the symptoms of poor metabolic health, you’ll understand the importance of how you feel and what you can see when you look in the mirror as contributory factors to your metabolic health.
Identifying everyday symptoms as clues to various underlying systemic imbalances will help you to enhance your future metabolic health and prevent the risk of developing metabolic syndrome, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, autoimmune diseases, inflammation and cardiovascular disease.
If you only treat these symptoms with medicine alone for more than two years, without any nutritional lifestyle intervention, your metabolic pathways will begin to fail, and your symptoms may develop into a systemic imbalance in your metabolic health, such as sleep apnea, chronic insomnia or high blood pressure.
Your metabolic health is incredibly important and fundamentally everyday symptoms related to an imbalance or malfunction relating to either one of in part all three of functional metabolic pathways: Delivery of energy to your cells, detoxification of toxins and absorption of raw ingredients.
What is the cause of sleep difficulties?
The main cause of a good night’s rest is due to the body’s ability to regulate and optimise cortisol levels during the day and throughout the night.
Cortisol is a stress hormone that is released by the adrenal glands in response to physical or emotional stress day and night.
Cortisol levels are naturally highest in the morning and gradually decline throughout the day, reaching their lowest levels at night. This natural dip in cortisol levels is what signals to the body that it’s time to sleep.
This dip signals the serotonin in the brain, production from tryptophan in the gut, it is time to sleep and then melatonin in the pineal gland to control sleep patterns.
However, when cortisol levels remain high throughout the day and night, it can interfere with the body’s natural sleep cycle and not trigger the cascades of hormones required to regulate a sleep pattern
As a result, your blood sugar levels will influence your sleep quality as this delivers the glucose into the cells to create mitochondria for energy.
You will notice this when you monitor your blood glucose levels with a continuous glucose monitor. When you eat before bedtime you will notice how your blood sugar levels rise and will stay elevated throughout the night.
Then on rising, before you eat or drink anything you should notice your blood sugar levels will rise, but if you have poor sleep quality they are more likely to be flat line.
What are circadian rhythms?
Circadian rhythms are essentially your sleep cycles.
Your circadian rhythm is your body’s natural, internal sleep, wake cycle that repeats each day – or 24 hours. It can be affected by many variables: light, dark, insulin levels and mostly stress.
Each and every one of us experiences a variation of stress at some point in our lives, but higher levels of cortisol can disrupt the circadian rhythm and your body clock, which increases your chances of developing metabolic syndrome.
This is because when too much cortisol is required to get through the day, it impacts your ability to manage the sleep cycle efficiently.
It is important that cortisol and blood sugars levels drop before you sleep, to allow the serotonin levels to rise to ensure your body rests and repairs throughout the night and you can get a full night of quality sleep.
Why do you wake at 2am and can’t get back to sleep?
If you discover that you CAN get to sleep, but find that you wake up throughout the night, unable to get settled again, you may be experiencing disturbed sleep due to the nightly liver cleanse, or your liver’s “active” hours.
The theory of the liver’s active times comes from the Chinese Meridian Clock, also known as the “body clock” or “Horary” clock and focuses on the amount of Qi, or chi (the body’s life force, or vital energy) flowing through the body at a certain time.
During the hours of 1:00 am to 3:00 am, the liver begins cleansing your blood and processing any waste.
If you often wake up at these hours, you may be over-taxing your liver during the day with too much stress and/or a poor diet.
It’s also no surprise that drinking alcohol or taking medications often wake at this time and experience disturbed sleep and trouble falling back to sleep.
What are the consequences of trouble sleeping?
Not getting enough sleep has been linked with poor physical health, cognitive impairment, inflammation, impaired immunity, and chronic pain.
By either not eating enough of the right foods or consuming ultra-processed foods in excess, you will become deficient in essential nutrients and your body will struggle to create the essential hormones for your sleep cycle and absorb the essential nutrients for repair
Therefore the long term consequences of poor sleep habits are that it can lead to metabolic diseases such as obesity, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
In order to maintain optimal health, it is important to get a good night’s sleep of 7-8 hours each night. If you find that you have trouble falling asleep, or sleep badly there are a few things you can do to improve your sleep quality:
- Exercise during the day: This will help to release any pent up energy and improve the quality of your sleep.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine: Both of these substances can cause you to wake up during the night and have difficulty falling back asleep.
- Create a bedtime routine: This can help to signal to your body that it is time to wind down and prepare for sleep.
- Make sure your sleeping environment is comfortable: This means a dark, quiet, cool room with a comfortable mattress and pillow.
- Limit screen time before bed: The blue light from screens can disrupt your circadian rhythm and make it harder to fall asleep.
- Practice some relaxation techniques: This can help to clear your mind and prepare your body for sleep.
If you find that you are still struggling to sleep after trying these tips, it is important to speak to a doctor or healthcare professional as there may be an underlying health condition causing your insomnia.
In summary, when suffering from poor sleep quality, it is essential to address the stress in your life and ensure you balance your blood sugars as they impact the ability to generate energy efficiently and therefore you won’t rely on cortisol to get you through the day.
You should also focus on eating the Perfect Plate for every meal as this will ensure your body has the building blocks it needs to create the hormones required for a healthy sleep cycle.
Finally, create a bedtime routine and make sure your sleeping environment is comfortable in order to help you fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the night.
In conclusion, the best way to get a good night’s sleep is to focus on balancing your blood sugars, cleansing your liver and improving your gut microbiome. This will enable you to help regulate your cortisol and insulin sensitivity and deliver energy to your cells, detoxify toxins that disrupt your metabolism and create beneficial bacteria to reduce inflammation, therefore, improving your overall metabolic health.
Your bad night’s sleep is related to what you ate yesterday NOT what you want today. Breaking the vicious cycle is easy to do by changing what you eat next, reducing the production of cortisol hormones.
What’s next? What is your metabolic health age – use the online Metabolic Age Calculator and answer a few simple health and lifestyle questions. It takes a few minutes, but it could help you change how you sleep at night forever.
If your Metabolic Health Age is equivalent to or lower than your actual age, then that is great news! This means your blood sugar levels, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein, (HDL) cholesterol, blood pressure and waist circumference are potentially all within an ideal range.
However if your Metabolic Health Age is more than 10 years of your actual age, and you are struggling with poor sleep quality you could be prone to some or all of these conditions as these are all markers that directly relate to your risk of insulin resistance, fatty liver, dysbiosis, high cholesterol and blood pressure.
This article is part of my WHY series to help you to identify the symptoms of poor metabolic health. Do you often ask yourself any of these…