Alaska Sleep Education Center

How Sugar and Sugar Substitutes Impact Your Sleep

Posted by Lewis Robinson on Mar 23, 2022 7:11:00 AM

Young woman holding a sweet jar

Sucrose is a type of sugar found in many foods, including honey, fruits, and vegetables. It is also found in table sugar and brown sugar. Many people are unaware of just how much sucrose and other sugars impact their sleep. If you've ever wondered how sugar and sugar substitutes can affect your sleep, read below to learn more.


How Sugar Affects Your Body

Before getting too deep into the specific effects sugar intake has on your sleep, it's important to understand what sugar does in your body as a whole. Sugar is a carbohydrate that is found in many different types of food and drinks. It provides energy to the body and is broken down into glucose in the bloodstream.

Sucrose is broken down into glucose and fructose in the intestines by an enzyme called sucrase. Glucose can then enter the bloodstream to provide energy for cells throughout the body, while fructose can only be used by cells in the liver, muscles, and other organs that have special enzymes to break it down.

Once it enters the bloodstream, sugar can cause spikes in your blood sugar, leading to a temporary boost of energy. However, as is often referenced in popular culture, a "sugar crash" is one of the better-known detriments to consuming too much sugar. This phenomenon ties into your sleep quality and duration in some key ways.


Understanding Sugar Types

There are two types of sugar: sucrose and fructose. Both are made up of glucose and fructose molecules. Each has properties that may be making their way into your sleep habits.

What is sucrose anyways? Sucrose is the most common type of sugar that we consume. It is a disaccharide made up of glucose and fructose molecules joined together. Sucrose occurs naturally in certain fruits but can also be made from sugar cane or sugar beets through a process called hydrolysis.

Sucrose is found in plants, while fructose can be found in fruits. Fructose can also be created by combining sucrose with the enzyme sucrase to break it down into two parts, glucose and fructose.


Sugar Impacts Sleep Regularity and Patterns

When you eat sugar or other carbohydrates, your body converts them to glucose, which your brain uses for energy. The more sugar you eat, the more glucose your body produces. When this happens at night while you're supposed to sleep, it can cause problems with sleep patterns.

One of the main problems identified is that you may have trouble falling asleep. Similarly, glucose overproduction can easily knock your internal or circadian rhythm off. These negative effects often snowball, impacting muscle regeneration, clarity, focus, and other aspects of your health.


Trouble Getting Enough Sleep? Time To Reduce Your Sugar Intake

Sucrose is used as a sweetener in many products like baked goods, candy, and soft drinks. Consuming too many of these kinds of foods may end up destroying your body's ability to get the sleep it needs. The amount of time you sleep has a direct impact on your performance the next day. If you are looking to stay sharp and optimal, stay away from too much sugar, especially before going to bed.

Sugar is one of the most common causes of sleep deprivation. It can lead to an increase in the levels of hormones that are responsible for making us feel hungry. Sugar also leads to a decrease in the hormone that helps us feel full and sleepy.


Poor Sleep Quality Is Linked to Sugary Foods

As it turns out, your diet may be one of your greatest weapons in the battle to improve your sleep. We all know that too many sweet foods devoid of substantial nutritional content can affect our waistlines, but most people fail to see how a diet rich in sweets can hamper sleep as well. 

Sugary foods energize you plain and simple. By consuming these foods before sleep, it's easy to see how you may find yourself feeling alert, proactive, and even panicked in some instances. Your brain requires an optimal chemical balance when preparing for sleep if you are to benefit from its advantages fully.

Sugar disrupts your brain and body's natural processes before sleep. For example, sugar consumption saps up vital resources from the body, such as magnesium, which are vital components of restorative sleep.


Sugar Affects Hormone Production Before and During Sleep

Sugar does not always cause you to have poor sleep quality or sleep problems on its own and when consumed in moderation. However, if you are sensitive to the effects of sucrose or you eat too much of it before bedtime, it can make it difficult for your body to produce melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that helps regulate your sleep/wake cycle or circadian rhythm.


Some Substitute Sugars May Be Keeping You Awake

Many popular sugar substitutes such as Stevia, Agave Nectar, and Splenda have taken the market by storm in recent years. However, in many cases, these kinds of alternatives can be just as detrimental to your sleep as consuming the real stuff.

Sugar substitutes often cause satiation suppression, which leads to overeating and impulsive eating choices. These behavioral patterns often lead to late-night snacking, a prime culprit for restlessness and agitation before bedtime. Substitutes such as Stevia lead to hyperactivity and poor sleep quality.


Heavy Sugar Consumption Can Cause Chronic Sleep Disorders Like Narcolepsy

We all know that sugar wreaks havoc on our teeth, our skin, our digestive systems, and our brains when consumed in excess. On top of this, too much sugar can also lead to the development of chronic sleep disorders.

Narcolepsy and diabetes are common ailments that impact sleep quality and duration over the course of a lifetime. Narcoleptics often suffer from an inability to control their sleep. This can lead to dozing off at the most inopportune times throughout the day.

Heavy sugar consumption trains the brain to rely on extreme insulin production for its energy. This chemical imbalance starts to impact sleep and gives way to serious disorders such as narcolepsy.


Sugar and Rapid Eye Movement Sleep

REM sleep is the most important piece of the sleep cycle. In this phase of sleep, your body restores cell damage and performs other crucial functions that allow you to feel refreshed after a night of sleep. Without productive REM sleep, you may find yourself feeling sluggish, slow, and anxious.

Sugar consumption interrupts REM sleep by making you more susceptible to restlessness and busyness. These sensations often manifest in how long it takes you to fall asleep and how long you are able to fall into REM sleep during the night.

As you can see, sugar and sugar substitutes can impact your sleep in several ways. Whether you are a big fan of desserts or if you are using substitutes, caution and balance are cornerstones of your sleep quality. By being aware of sugar's pitfalls and making tweaks to your diet, you can enable yourself to have a deep, restful sleep night after night.


Getting into a consistent sleep routine will improve your overall health and you may start to see subtle improvements in blood sugar as well.  The following tips sleep tips may help to promote better sleep:

  • Check and monitor your blood glucose to keep it under control

  • Establish a regular bedtime routine

  • Ensure your bed is large and comfortable enough

  • Ensure your room is cool and well ventilated

  • Ensure your room is dark and free from noise

  • Incorporating a period of exercise into each day

To stay informed on more information regarding diabetes and sleep issues read an essay on diabetes and subscribe to our blog.  And remember, you can always contact us here at The Alaska Sleep Clinic for any questions regarding how diabetes can affect your sleep at @ 907-357-6700.



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Topics: alaska sleep clinic, remedies, sugar, diet, poor sleep

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