Is Your Blood Sugar Keeping You Up?

 In Health, Sleep

A term that's definitely gaining traction in the health and wellness sphere lately has been metabolic health and for good reason, but what exactly is metabolic health? 

At its core, metabolic health refers to the efficiency and balance of our body's metabolic processes, including the breakdown of food into energy, the regulation of blood sugar levels, and the management of fats and cholesterol. When our metabolism is functioning optimally, we feel energized, maintain a healthy weight, and are less susceptible to chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome. 

Poor metabolic health doesn't just affect one organ—it impacts the entire body. You might experience cognitive fog, digestive issues, skin problems, or weight fluctuations, all stemming from underlying metabolic imbalances. It's like a domino effect, with one problem begetting another in a vicious cycle of declining health.

A true expert on this matter is Andrea Nicholson. Andrea transitioned from crime scene investigator to functional health investigator after solving her own health challenges with insulin resistance, chronic constipation, and advancing heart disease.  Today, she uses those same investigative skills with her clients to identify and solve underlying health challenges associated with insulin resistance and metabolic health.  She is Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition, a certified Nutrition Therapist Master, level 3 Restorative Wellness Practitioner, and has completed several continuing education courses in low-carb nutrition therapy practices.

From Crime Scene Investigator to Functional Health Investigator

Andrea's story begins with a startling revelation during an advanced health screening. Despite appearing healthy on the surface, Andrea's test results revealed concerning signs of heart disease, including arterial plaque formation and unfavorable cholesterol profiles. Armed with a background in biology and a determination to find answers, Andrea diligently followed conventional advice, embracing a heart-healthy diet and regular exercise. However, her efforts yielded disappointing results, with subsequent tests showing a worsening of her metabolic health markers. Frustrated by the limited insights provided by traditional medicine, she turned to alternative approaches and functional medicine for answers.

Through self-experimentation and comprehensive testing, Andrea uncovered a significant piece of the puzzle: insulin resistance. Despite conventional tests focusing solely on blood sugar levels, Andrea's exploration revealed the underlying insulin dysfunction contributing to her metabolic health issues. This discovery opened new avenues for understanding and addressing metabolic health beyond the conventional paradigm.

The Link Between Blood Sugar and Sleep 

Insulin resistance is a condition in which cells in the body become less responsive to the hormone insulin, leading to elevated blood sugar levels. There is a very strong relationship between sleep and insulin resistance that is bidirectional, with each influencing the other in a complex interplay. 

On one hand, inadequate sleep can disrupt glucose metabolism, leading to insulin resistance. Sleep deprivation has been shown to decrease insulin sensitivity, increase cortisol levels (a stress hormone that can interfere with insulin signaling), and alter appetite-regulating hormones, predisposing individuals to weight gain and metabolic dysregulation.

Conversely, insulin resistance can also disrupt sleep patterns, creating a vicious cycle. Elevated blood sugar levels and insulin resistance have been associated with sleep disturbances, such as insomnia, sleep fragmentation, and obstructive sleep apnea. These disruptions further exacerbate metabolic dysfunction, perpetuating the cycle of insulin resistance and poor sleep.

Several mechanisms underlie the link between sleep and insulin resistance. Chronic sleep deprivation disrupts the body's internal clock, known as the circadian rhythm, which regulates metabolic processes, including glucose metabolism. Additionally, sleep loss alters the balance of appetite-regulating hormones, increasing hunger and promoting unhealthy food choices, which can contribute to weight gain and insulin resistance.

Furthermore, sleep deprivation triggers systemic inflammation and oxidative stress, processes implicated in the pathogenesis of insulin resistance. Inflammatory cytokines and oxidative stressors impair insulin signaling pathways, further exacerbating metabolic dysfunction.

How to Improve Your Blood Sugar Levels and Your Sleep 

During our conversation, Andrea generously shared some practical tips for improving sleep and metabolic health:

  • Prioritize Whole Foods: Eliminate processed foods, high fructose corn syrup, sodas, and candy bars from your diet as they can spike blood sugar levels and contribute to metabolic dysfunction.

  • Maintain a Balanced Diet: Ensure your meals contain adequate protein and healthy fats to stabilize blood sugar levels and promote satiety.

  • Manage Stress: Incorporate stress management techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing exercises, or engaging in relaxing activities to reduce cortisol levels and improve metabolic health.

  • Optimize Sleep: Prioritize good quality sleep by maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, creating a relaxing bedtime routine, and optimizing your sleep environment.

  • Engage in Physical Activity: Incorporate regular physical activity into your routine, but be mindful of overtraining, which can increase cortisol levels and exacerbate metabolic issues. Aim for a balanced exercise regimen that includes strength training, walking, yoga, or other low-impact activities.

  • Walk After Meals: Going for a walk, especially after meals, can help regulate blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. Even a short walk can make a significant difference in glucose metabolism.

  • Choose Healthy Snacks: If experiencing nighttime awakenings or blood sugar crashes, opt for a small snack containing a combination of protein and healthy fats, such as cheese, nut butter, or chicken, to stabilize blood sugar levels and promote better sleep.

  • Monitor Progress: Pay attention to how your body responds to dietary and lifestyle changes and adjust accordingly. Tracking metrics such as blood sugar levels, energy levels, and sleep quality can provide valuable insights into your metabolic health progress.

If you’re interested in learning more about Andrea and her work, make sure you connect with her on Instagram and LinkedIn and take a look at her YouTube channel.

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