Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

Restless sleep and blood sugar

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I don’t know how my friend finds these people… Another gem of a quote from a personal trainer posted on facebook and twitter:

A common cause of restless sleep is low blood sugar. To combat this try eating a stalk of celery with some almond butter or a small handful of nuts before bed. The slow digesting good fats will help raise your blood sugar level slowly and induce a restful sleep!

It’s amazing how three sentences can contain so much misinformation. Does low blood sugar cause restless sleep? It seems unlikely. Many things cause poor and restless sleep (1). Your diet can certainly have an impact. However, eating right before bed is a more likely culprit than low blood sugar. In fact, elevated blood sugar (seen in newly diagnosed, and those with uncontrolled, diabetes) may cause restless sleep as it can lead to frequent urination (2). If you’re so hungry that your stomach’s rumbling, that can make it more difficult to fall asleep. However, it’s much more likely that high blood sugar will negatively impact your sleep than will low blood sugar.

Fortunately, celery and nuts will have very little to no impact on your blood sugar levels. The glycemic load of celery is 1 (this is on a scale of 0 to 250). The glycemic load of nuts is zero.

A few better ways to improve your sleep: get some exercise every day (but not right before bed), impose a no screen-time for at least one hour before bedtime rule for yourself, make sure your room is completely dark and as quiet as possible, avoid caffeine late in the day, don’t have a large meal right before bed. Routine is essential. Try to go to bed at approximately the same time every night.

Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people relearn how to have a healthy relationship with food.

3 thoughts on “Restless sleep and blood sugar

  1. Good advice, Di! I used to be a sleep coach and it’s AMAZING what people will believe affects (and doesn’t affect) their sleep. Another good tip is to get out of bed if you haven’t fallen asleep in 20 minutes and do something quiet and nonstimulating for ~20 minutes, then try again. You don’t want your body getting used to being awake in bed.

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  2. I’ve actually seen hypoglycemia during the night reported as a side effect of VLC diets, especially in people who get frequent exercise. I don’t think it manifested as restlessness though, more of a “jolting awake in the middle of the night and unable to get back to sleep” type of thing.

    Most of the rest is like you said though, really misinformed. There may be some benefit to having some fat prior to sleep but I don’t think it was to help with restlessness.

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