Halloween is quickly approaching, which is that special time of the year when we have an excuse to stuff ourselves with endless amounts of candy. That’s soon followed by Thanksgiving and Christmas, where pies, pudding, and cookies come into play- the festivities never end! One thing we don’t account for during the holidays is how badly eating sugar before bed can affect our sleep quality.
You may be asking yourself - why does sugar make me tired? If you’re feeling like the grinch on Christmas, it’s most likely because your sugar crashes prevent you from getting deep sleep and the right amount of sleep. Eating sugar before bed will also lead to bloating and poor digestion, which can weaken your immune system. Let’s find out more about the connection between sugar and sleep and how you can keep your blood sugar levels in check - even during the holiday season.
Eating sugar before bed spikes your blood sugar levels and gives you a sugar high, which is feeling excessive energy. But does sugar keep you awake? The pancreas fights your high blood sugar level by releasing insulin to break down the sugar and convert it into energy.
When your blood sugar level goes down, you experience a sugar crash, which is energy loss and feeling sleepy after eating sugar. This is also known as the roller coaster effect because you experience a sugar high and just as fast, a sugar crash afterward.
With high blood sugar levels, your energy increases, which leads to restlessness and will make it hard to fall asleep. But even when you do fall asleep, you may experience sleep arousals or night wakings, which is waking up at night. This will ruin your sleep-wake cycle. Your restorative deep sleep will be disrupted and you’ll be pulled out of your Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, which is the most essential stage in the sleep cycle.
As a result, you’ll feel weary and grouchy during the daytime. Sleep deprivation leads to craving more sugar, which will increase your tendency to eat junk food, candy, and desserts with saturated fats - eating more sugar will make you feel more sleepy. This dangerous cycle will keep happening if you don’t start controlling eating sugar before bed and it will significantly lower sleep quality.
Now that we’ve established how eating sugar before bed is impactful on sleep, how does it affect your health? Sleep deprivation changes the brain’s reward system. It activates your food stimuli or cravings, which will get you to eat more carbs and foods high in sugar before bed.
Seeing Halloween sweets and desserts arouses this reward system and encourages you to eat more. Your weight increases with the more carbohydrates and meals high in fats you eat. This suppresses the two hormones that are responsible for balancing your hunger hormones and metabolism, leptin and ghrelin.
Adding fiber-rich foods and protein to your diet will improve your metabolism, as well as including healthy fats like fish, flax seeds, and nuts. Sleep deprivation and eating sugar before bed not only leads to obesity, but it can lead to other health risks as well like heart disease and diabetes.
If you’re craving eating sugar before bed, opt for fiber-rich fruit like watermelon or banana instead of processed foods with refined sugar. It’ll improve your sleep and boost melatonin, the sleep hormone. Other sweet options to consider are honey, peanut butter, sweet potato, or dark chocolate.
Nutritions that contain melatonin are nuts like almonds and pistachios, oatmeal, kale, lettuce, and spinach - protein like fish, turkey, and chicken, can also be used in a light snack before bed.
This may seem like an obvious point but the less unhealthy food you keep at home, the better you eat. Don’t stack your fridge with desserts and junk food, instead store fruits, juice, nuts, and vegetables. If you start encouraging healthier eating habits at home, your kids will follow, because there are limited options of high sugar foods.
Whether it’s trick-or-treating or a Christmas party, never leave your home hungry! Have a small nutritious meal before leaving or else every pie and cookie will seem like a good decision. Ensuring your kids have lunch and don’t come home hungry after trick-or-treating will make them eat less candy before bedtime.
Even if you do cave into that slice of cake or your kids had more candy than usual, set a deadline at least two hours before going to sleep to stop eating. Give your body time to digest the food you ate and wait for your blood sugar levels to be balanced.
We all come out of the holidays a few pounds heavier. If you limit your sugar intake, especially at gatherings and parties, you’ll feel better about yourself after the holidays. This won’t only regulate your sleep cycle, it’ll also prevent gaining weight.
We’ve established that the less you sleep, the more you crave sugary foods. To eat less sugar before bed during the holidays, it is very important to stick to a healthy sleep schedule. Practice proper sleep hygiene like staying away from your phone before sleeping, setting up your bed, or eating light snacks before sleeping.
If you’re eating food that contains sugar before bed, try to pair it with a protein to balance your glucose levels and boost your Orexin, a hormone that’ll help prevent a sugar high.
Good proteins include milk, greek yogurt, or whole-grain bread. You can also pair sugar foods with healthy fats like avocado, dark chocolate, cheese, fatty fish, or nuts. Healthy fats will help balance your blood sugar levels.
Children have higher energy levels than adults, adding sugar to the mix will make them more energetic. It makes sense for kids to be excited on Halloween but what matters is balancing things out. For example, a healthy snack before eating candy can prevent them from being hyperactive. You can also ration their candy so that it doesn’t all finish in one day.
Leftover Halloween candy doesn’t need to be eaten right after Halloween, it’ll just ruin your children’s sleep cycle further. Instead try to use it in desserts, like cookies or milkshakes. If it’s chocolate, you can also place it in the freezer and use it later, to reward your children for finishing their chores or getting good grades.
Even though most candy contains saturated fat, calories, and a lot of sugar, some are worse than others. The unhealthiest type of candy is that which contains artificial ingredients like food dyes and artificial flavors. Food dyes are high in calories and don’t contain any nutritional value while artificial flavoring can have health risks like headaches, depression, and allergies, if highly consumed.
Candy that contains nuts or dark chocolate is a healthier option. Dark chocolate has less sugar than milk chocolate and white chocolate and nuts are rich in fibers. A study done at the University of Edinburgh suggests that the magnesium ingredient in dark chocolate actually helps regulate the circadian rhythm or internal clock. This can help a person sleep better at night.
Contrary to common belief, sugar free candy is not “sugar free”, an artificial sweetener is added to this type of candy but there is no noticeable difference in fat or protein than candy with regular sugar.
You still shouldn’t eat it by the handful and need to practice portion control because there is still an increased risk of obesity and diabetes if you eat too much. However, it is still a better alternative to regular candy, especially for people with diabetes.
Yes, eating sugar before bed can disturb your sleep by keeping you from getting any deep sleep. With high blood sugar levels, you’ll feel restless and suffer from sleep deprivation. You might even experience night wakings, which is abruptly waking up at night.
Eating sugar before bed will give you a temporary sugar high, a burst of energy that will soon be followed by a sugar crash, making you feel tired and sleepy. If you eat a lot of sugar before bed, it’ll disrupt your sleep and will lessen your productivity throughout the day.
There are a lot of health side effects if your diet consists of too much sugar. A lot of sugar will increase your blood sugar levels, which will increase blood pressure, cause sleep deprivation, inflammation, and weight gain.
Now that you know how to stay healthy during the holidays and how to regulate your blood sugar levels for better sleep, you’re ready to party!