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Can’t Sleep? Simple Carbs May Be to Blame

If you’ve ever spent hours tossing and turning without being able to fall asleep, you know how frustrating it can be. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), about one in three people have at least mild insomnia, and about 70 percent of American adults report not sleeping enough at night. So, what’s keeping so many people up at night?

There are hundreds of answers to that question, from common behaviors like drinking coffee too late in the day to unusual sleeping disorders like somnambulism. And now, a recent study has added another factor to the list: refined carbohydrates or simple carbohydrates.

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrate is one of the three macronutrients in food that provide fuel for the body to function properly. The other two are protein and fat. During digestion, all three are broken down into the elements the body can use for energy: Protein is reduced to amino acids and fat is reduced to fatty acids, both of which are then stored for future use.  Carbohydrates, on the other hand, are broken down into glucose (sugar) which get processed in the liver before entering the bloodstream and is immediately available to be used by cells for energy. This is why eating carbs can affect blood sugar levels so quickly and dramatically.

What is the difference between simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates?

There are two types of carbohydrates with each impacting blood glucose levels differently.   Simple carbs are like quick-burning fuels. They break down fast into sugar in your system.  It takes your body longer to break down complex carbs into sugar.  Simple carbs are found in everything from table sugar (sucrose) to fruit. Complex carbs, or starches, occur in foods such as whole grains and starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, pumpkin and squash. Other good sources of complex carbs are beans. Kidney, white, black, pinto, or garbanzo beans also have lots of fiber.

Carbohydrates and Sleep Study
A study, conducted by researchers from Columbia University’s Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, looked at the relationships between the glycemic index (GI) of different types of carbohydrates and insomnia. Data from the food diaries of more than 50,000 post-menopausal women were gathered to determine if women who ate foods with higher GIs were more likely to develop insomnia.

The glycemic index of a food is a measure that assigns a value to carbohydrates based on how fast or slow they raise your blood sugar levels. Generally speaking, “complex ccarbohydrates” have a low GI value, and are digested, absorbed, and metabolized slower, making your body release glucose in a slow, controlled way.

Simple carbohydrates are high GI foods, that are digested quickly, causing a rapid spike in your blood sugar and insulin levels right after you eat. Eating foods with high GI values has been liked to an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, overeating, and now, insomnia.

The results of the study showed that, after a three-year follow-up, women who regularly ate higher GI foods – especially those who ate lots of added sugars and processed grains like white bread – were more likely to experience insomnia. In contrast, participants who ate a more balanced diet with lower GI foods (like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables) had less trouble sleeping at night.

Because the study only looked at data of women between the ages of 50 and 79, more research is needed to determine if these findings hold true in the general population. If that’s the case, the authors of the study believe that “(…) dietary intervention[s] focused on increasing the consumption of whole foods and complex carbohydrates could be used to prevent and treat insomnia.”

Sleep Aide – Small Complex Carb Snack Before Bedtime
Many people who wake during the night do so because they experience a drop in blood sugar.  If you have trouble sleeping through the night, trying eating a small amount of  slow burning “COMPLEX CARBS” like a couple spoonfuls of beans (pinto, kidney, garbanzo, black beans etc.) or whole grain crackers.  This may help you avoid waking from a drop in blood sugar.

If you need extra help, don’t forget Akeso’s comprehensive natural sleep aide, “SLEEP ALL NIGHT” formulated to reestablish healthy sleep patterns or download our Free Sleep-Ebook & Insomnia White Paper 


Insomnia? Discover Great Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep

Most Everyone loves the daylight savings time and pushing the clock ahead an hour, except for those of you, for whom falling asleep is a challenge and not the easy task it should be to end a tiresome day.

We all know that eating too much and the wrong foods can make us fat, but now, as if that’s not enough punishment, scientist are adding more negative news to the “fat” bandwagon…

Fatty Foods May Contribute To Insomnia
Insomnia treatments may include certain foods or the elimination of other foods. Research indicates that eating fat may contribute to insomnia, especially if you eat fatty foods close to bedtime. A study using mice found that fat disturbs sleep by disrupting metabolic bodily functions. The eating of fat interferes with the natural rhythms that induce sleep.

A high-fat diet affects DNA in the body, and that can cause permanent sleep problems. As if that’s not enough, eating fat causes you to want more fat, which just makes everything worse.

For a better night’s sleep, cut down on fat, especially at night.

We thank the University of Maryland for the following interesting and comprehensive information on how to “Win the battle against Insomnia”!

Poor sleep habits (referred to as hygiene) are among the most common problems encountered in our society. We stay up too late and get up too early. We interrupt our sleep with drugs, chemicals and work, and we overstimulate ourselves with late-night activities such as television.

Below are some essentials of good sleep habits. Many of these points will seem like common sense. But it is surprising how many of these important points are ignored by many of us. Click on any of the links below for more information:

  • Your Personal Habits
  • Your Sleeping Environment
  • Getting Ready For Bed
  • Getting Up in the Middle of the Night
  • A Word About Television
  • Other Factors

Your Personal Habits  

  • Fix a bedtime and an awakening time. Do not be one of those people who allows bedtime and awakening time to drift. The body “gets used” to falling asleep at a certain time, but only if this is relatively fixed. Even if you are retired or not working, this is an essential component of good sleeping habits.
  • Avoid napping during the day. If you nap throughout the day, it is no wonder that you will not be able to sleep at night. The late afternoon for most people is a “sleepy time.” Many people will take a nap at that time. This is generally not a bad thing to do, provided you limit the nap to 30-45 minutes and can sleep well at night.
  • Avoid alcohol 4-6 hours before bedtime. Many people believe that alcohol helps them sleep. While alcohol has an immediate sleep-inducing effect, a few hours later as the alcohol levels in your blood start to fall, there is a stimulant or wake-up effect.
  • Avoid caffeine 4-6 hours before bedtime. This includes caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea and many sodas, as well as chocolate, so be careful.
  • Avoid heavy, spicy, or sugary foods 4-6 hours before bedtime. These can affect your ability to stay asleep.
  • Exercise regularly, but not right before bed. Regular exercise, particularly in the afternoon, can help deepen sleep. Strenuous exercise within the 2 hours before bedtime, however, can decrease your ability to fall asleep.

Your Sleeping Environment 

  • Use comfortable bedding. Uncomfortable bedding can prevent good sleep. Evaluate whether or not this is a source of your problem, and make appropriate changes.
  • Find a comfortable temperature setting for sleeping and keep the room well ventilated. If your bedroom is too cold or too hot, it can keep you awake. A cool (not cold) bedroom is often the most conducive to sleep.
  • Block out all distracting noise, and eliminate as much light as possible.
  • Reserve the bed for sleep and sex. Don’t use the bed as an office, workroom or recreation room. Let your body “know” that the bed is associated with sleeping.

Getting Ready For Bed 

  • Try a light snack before bed. Warm milk and foods high in the amino acid tryptophan, such as bananas, may help you to sleep.
  • Practice relaxation techniques before bed. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, deep breathing and others may help relieve anxiety and reduce muscle tension.
  • Don’t take your worries to bed. Leave your worries about job, school, daily life, etc., behind when you go to bed. Some people find it useful to assign a “worry period” during the evening or late afternoon to deal with these issues.
  • Establish a pre-sleep ritual. Pre-sleep rituals, such as a warm bath or a few minutes of reading, can help you sleep.
  • Get into your favorite sleeping position. If you don’t fall asleep within 15-30 minutes, get up, go into another room, and read until sleepy.

Getting Up in the Middle of the Night

Most people wake up one or two times a night for various reasons. If you find that you get up in the middle of night and cannot get back to sleep within 15-20 minutes, then do not remain in the bed “trying hard” to sleep. Get out of bed. Leave the bedroom. Read, have a light snack, do some quiet activity, or take a bath. You will generally find that you can get back to sleep 20 minutes or so later. Do not perform challenging or engaging activity such as office work, housework, etc. Do not watch television.

A Word About Television

Many people fall asleep with the television on in their room. Watching television before bedtime is often a bad idea. Television is a very engaging medium that tends to keep people up. We generally recommend that the television not be in the bedroom. At the appropriate bedtime, the TV should be turned off and the patient should go to bed. Some people find that the radio helps them go to sleep. Since radio is a less engaging medium than TV, this is probably a good idea.

Other Factors

  • Several physical factors are known to upset sleep. These include arthritis, acid reflux with heartburn, menstruation, headaches and hot flashes.
  • Psychological and mental health problems like depression, anxiety and stress are often associated with sleeping difficulty. In many cases, difficulty staying asleep may be the only presenting sign of depression. A physician should be consulted about these issues to help determine the problem and the best treatment.
  • Many medications can cause sleeplessness as a side effect. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if medications you are taking can lead to sleeplessness.
  • To help overall improvement in sleep patterns, your doctor may prescribe sleep medications for short-term relief of a sleep problem. The decision to take sleeping aids is a medical one to be made in the context of your overall health picture.

To the best of health,

Curt Hendrix, M.S., C.C.N,. C.N.S

Health tips provided by Curt Hendrix, M.S. C.C.N. C.N.S and MigreLief