Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


Restless sleep and blood sugar

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.


What to do if you’re tired

My recent decision to start following Dr Oz on twitter for blog fodder is now paying off. Yesterday I saw a tweet from him suggesting that if you were feeling tired that you might be suffering from a magnesium deficiency. While this is plausible (most North Americans don’t get enough magnesium – the above photo shows some good sources of magnesium), it’s certainly not the first avenue I would explore when someone complains of being tired. It’s funny how many of us seem to have forgotten about sleep as the most important contributor to preventing and alleviating fatigue. I’ve had people complain to me about feeling tired and then ask me things like “should I eliminate wheat?” Good nutrition definitely plays a role in how you feel and your energy levels but if you’re feeling fatigued and lethargic there are probably other avenues you should explore before nutrition, and definitely other nutrients you should explore before magnesium.

Here’s the line of questioning I would employ when feeling tired: How much sleep did I get last night? If I got less than eight hours I would attribute much of my fatigue to that. If you’re not getting enough sleep try quitting all electronics an hour before bed. Try getting into bed with a book at least half an hour before you actually want to fall asleep. Make sure that your room is as dark as possible. You may need to employ ear plugs and/or an eye mask to block out distractions, sexy no? There are lots of other tips for getting a good nights sleep. I googled some for you here. If duration or quality of sleep are not the culprits I would next ask how much exercise you’re getting? I know it sounds kind of counter intuitive but exercise can actually boost your energy, it can also help improve your sleep. Nutritionally, I would next ask if you’re getting enough water. I always keep a water bottle at my desk and when I get the post-lunch-sleepies I make sure to turn to the water before getting another coffee or tea. Nutrient-wise, I would first wonder if you’re getting enough iron, vitamin B12, and protein. Failing all that then I might explore magnesium, among other nutrients.

If you’re always feeling tired and this is a concern to you then you should probably see your doctor to determine the cause. While many of us don’t get enough magnesium this is rarely the primary cause of fatigue. Don’t diagnose yourself from a television personality.

Leave a comment

Want to lose weight? Maybe you should sleep on it.

Even though a recent study can’t determine causation, I think that it is important to note the relationship demonstrated between “social jet lag” and BMI (body mass index). Many of us scrimp on sleep and for whatever reason it’s seen as a bit of a badge of honour rather than the unhealthy practice that it truly is. You may eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly but you’re still hurting your health if you’re not getting enough sleep. Everybody has different sleep needs, but the average for an adult is 7-9 hours a night. Sleep is when our bodies have the opportunity to repair themselves and rejuvenate. If you’re not getting enough sleep you’re not going to be at your best both mentally and physically. If you’re concerned about your weight then you should add getting enough sleep to your to-do list. There’s no shame in taking care of yourself.