Does sugar harm sleep?

Sugar is a natural part of our daily diet. However, too much sugar is harmful to our health and can also disrupt sleep. Here we explain how sugar affects sleep and why you should avoid the extra portion of sweets in the evening.

Table of Contents

  1. What is sugar?
  2. The effect of sugar
  3. Does sugar disrupt sleep?
  4. The right diet in the evening
  5. Conclusion

1. What exactly is sugar?

Schlafmagazin: Zucker und Schlafstörungen, Zuckerwürfel

Sugar belongs to the carbohydrate nutrient group and is found in numerous foods in our daily diet. A basic distinction is made between so-called simple sugars (monosaccharides) and multiple sugars (polysaccharides). Simple sugars such as fructose (fruit sugar) and glucose (dextrose) can combine with each other and thus form the basis for disaccharides or polysaccharides such as sucrose, the well-known white household sugar.

2. The effect of sugar

As soon as we eat something, numerous digestive processes begin in the body, in which the sugar contained in the food is broken down into its individual components. Glucose and fructose then enter the bloodstream via the intestines and initially cause blood sugar levels to rise. This activates the production of the hormone insulin, which helps transport sugar molecules more quickly through the bloodstream to the cells and organs. There, the glucose consumed is converted into energy or stored in the form of fat, while fructose is largely processed in our liver.

Zucker und Schlafstörungen: Blutzuckerspiegel bei Lebensmitteln mit hohem oder niedrigem Glykämischen Index

The glycemic index (GI) indicates how quickly the carbohydrates in a food cause blood sugar levels to rise and is particularly high for foods with a high sugar content. Sugar is therefore considered an effective and quick source of energy that can support the performance of the body and brain in the short term. The rapid and high increase is then followed by an equally rapid drop in blood sugar levels, which can also have a negative impact on your health. The high blood sugar content and the resulting increased secretion of insulin also influence the feeling of hunger and satiety, which increases appetite or can cause food cravings. Too much sugar can lead to, among other things, diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases and can also significantly impair sleep.

Does sugar disrupt sleep?

Sugar causes blood sugar levels to rise quickly and provides our body with quickly available energy. This increases performance and wakes us up, which means we have less time to rest in the evening and have a harder time falling asleep. After a few hours, however, the blood sugar level quickly drops again, making it easier and more frequent for us to wake up from sleep.

In addition, according to various studies, the sleep hormone melatonin also plays an important role in regulating blood sugar levels. The increased melatonin level in the evening inhibits the release of insulin, which means that the glucose absorbed remains in the bloodstream longer and is broken down less quickly. The release of energy is also slowed down and awakening reactions occur more frequently during sleep because the blood sugar level fluctuates.

In this way, sleep is repeatedly interrupted and the regenerative deep sleep is disrupted, so that we feel less refreshed the next morning. A study from 2016 also showed that increased sugar consumption led to significantly less restful and restless sleep and shortened the deep sleep phase of the test subjects.

At the same time, however, a lack of sleep also impairs the function of hunger and satiety hormones, resulting in a greater feeling of hunger during the day. Studies show that on average people eat more, more frequently and, above all, more sugary and fatty foods during the day if they haven't had enough sleep the night before. So be careful: the more sugar we consume, the worse we sleep and the worse we sleep, the more our body craves sugar and food energy.

4. The right diet in the evening

Basically, you should of course pay attention to a balanced, healthy diet throughout the day and eat sugary foods in moderation. You can find more information about sleep and nutrition here.

In order not to disturb your sleep, you should follow the following tips in the evening:

➨ Your last, rather light meal should be eaten 2-3 hours before going to bed and should not be too heavy so that the digestive processes do not disrupt sleep.

➨ Avoid high-sugar and high-fat foods in the evening and consume them during the day so that your blood sugar level doesn't skyrocket before you go to bed.

If you happen to consume a lot of sugar at once, try combining it with foods rich in fiber. They cause blood sugar levels to rise more slowly after eating.

But there are numerous nutrients and foods that, in contrast to sugar, can have a positive effect on sleep. You can read more about this in these articles:

Sleep Drinks – The best drinks for a good night's sleep

The top 8 sources of melatonin

5. Conclusion

  • Sugar is a carbohydrate that provides the body with quick energy.
  • Increased sugar consumption before bed can disrupt sleep and shorten periods of deep sleep, leaving us feeling less rested and lacking energy.
  • Combine sugary foods with fiber-rich foods and have a light, low-sugar meal in the evening, 2 – 3 hours before going to bed.

Greetings and see you soon!

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