How does sugar affect your sleep?
Put down the choccy before bedtime. Research suggests that sugar is a major inhibitor of sleep. Our resident sleep expert Olivia Arezzolo shares her insights based on the research, to help you get an effective 8 hours.
Sleep: it’s free. And we all want more of it, so why is it so hard to get? Specifically – that consistent, restorative, uninterrupted, eight-hours-a-night kinda sleep. Which is why we’ve enlisted Sydney-based sleep expert Olivia Arezzolo to solve our myriad of sleep concerns with our new editorial series Sleep Well Wednesdays. Check back each week and you’ll be off to the land of nod before you know it.
Sugar – we have heard it’s bad for our sleep; but how bad is it – really? Well, well Sleep Well Wednesday friends, wonder no more: Clinical studies note higher sugar intake correlates with lighter, less restorative sleep; and more frequent night-time wakings.
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Parallel to that, scientific evidence also suggests those with the highest intake of sugar are 16% more likely to develop insomnia, compared to those with the lowest intake. Finally, research also highlights short sleepers consume more sugar sweetened beverages – 21% more.
And to save you from asking, I’ll answer the question for you – why does sugar sabotage sleep?
1. Sugar can contribute to depression
A recent study found those consuming the highest amount of sugar were 23% more likely to develop depression. Consequentially, sleep suffers for those suffering depression, studies show 97% report sleep disturbances.
Akin to that, 58% can’t fall asleep, 59% wake frequently through the night and 61% can’t return to sleep, should they awaken extremely early (e.g. 3 or 4am). Hence, sugar, in contributing to depression, also contributes to subpar, problematic sleep.
2. Sugar can contribute to anxiety
Noticed you’re super anxious post sugar? Not your imagination – simple sugars are digested quickly, and cause a sharp spike in adrenalin. If you’re already stressed or feeling tense, this can exacerbate these feelings, day and night.
Like depression, there are extensive links between anxiety and sleeplessness – anxiety is one of the leading causes of being unable to fall asleep, and similarly, insomniacs are 17 times more likely to have an anxiety disorder.
3. Sugar can contribute to weight gain
Excessive sugar is a leading factor in weight gain – but you didn’t need me to tell you that. However, you may be less aware that weight and sleep quality are intertwined: research shows those who are obese are 67% more likely to report poor sleep, and 50% more likely to have insomnia.
Further evidence indicates being overweight also increases the likelihood of sleeping problems, albeit less severe, compared to obesity. Thus – sugar can pronounce weight problems, which in turn, impedes sleep.