Your heart is pounding, you just had a horrific nightmare and you think “not again” as you look at the clock. Has this ever happened to you, like it has for so many other people? Waking up between 2:30 – 4:00am and being unable to get back to sleep for hours is one of the most common complaints people tell us about their sleep patterns.
Why does it happen and what can be done about it? There could be a number of causes, but we’ll focus on one of the most common reasons for this post.
First, let’s understand what’s going on in our bodies.
Many people assume that they have a nightmare and that mental anguish is the cause of a pounding chest – but in reality it’s usually the other way around. When we are asleep our bodies switch into “fight or flight” because of a physical reaction, which then causes our heart rate to rise. The nightmare is actually a result of our bodies already being in fight or flight.
Here’s why this occurs – some people can become hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) in the middle of the night. Our bodies are forced to react because low blood sugar is a problem physiologically. Our adrenal glands excrete stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, whose job it is to pull out stored sugars in our tissues and raise our blood sugar back up. When these hormones are released – you guessed it – our bodies switch into fight or flight, our hearts start pounding, and the corresponding mental component of this physical state is to have a nightmare and then wake up.
Fortunately, something can be done.
First and foremost, if nighttime hypoglycemia is the issue, look at your diet and lifestyle for anything that could be affecting blood sugar swings so you can get to the root cause. Alcohol and a high carbohydrate meal before bed (both sugars and complex carbs like rice, breads, etc.) are two culprits. For more info, try looking up “Reactive Hypoglycemia”.
If you do find yourself wide-eyed at 3am, try switching your body out of the fight or flight response. Normally, we couldn’t recommend “raccooning”, but in this case feel free to rummage around the pantry for a small snack (not much is needed). We prefer a two-fold approach. Have a few bites of carbohydrates, like eating a small piece of fruit or munching a 5-6 chips. This should help raise your blood sugar back up quickly. Then eat something high in fat and/or protein. A scoop of peanut butter or a slice of deli meat should do it. These foods digest more slowly and will keep your blood sugar even until the morning.
The result is often fairly quick – 10-15 minutes later your heart rate should slow and you should begin feeling sleepy again.
Speaking of which, Winged Sleepy gummies are a great supplement to help with nighttime waking. Check out the reviews for real-world testimonials. We recommend taking these gummies before bed only. For help during that midnight episode, a Relaxation gummy or a dropper full of Balance Oil might be a better choice.
Good luck and sweet dreams my friend!