Sleep Maintenance Insomnia


Are you the kind of person who goes to sleep as soon as your head hits the pillow but as soon as the clock ticks over to 3 am you are awake very, very AWAKE?  Your next few precious sleep hours are spent tossing and turning and generally annoying anyone else within a close vicinity.  Commiserations my friend, you have sleep maintenance insomnia.

Here’s what may be going on.


Blood sugar imbalance


Many people who wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning do so because their blood sugar does not remain stable over-night. While we sleep we are fasting but our brains are actually very active and require a constant supply of glucose for energy. Healthy adrenal glands and pancreas will release hormones that breakdown stored glucose (glycogen) so blood sugar remains stable. However, if these glands are not functioning optimally your blood sugar can drop too low. The brain goes into panic mode and releases adrenalin and, BANG you wake up feeling very alert.


Cortisol and melatonin


Poor diet, lifestyle habits and stress (both physical and psychological) may also affect your balance of cortisol and melatonin. Cortisol gives you your “get up and go”. It should be high in the morning and gradually drop during the day. Conversely, melatonin is required for sleep and it should be low in the day and builds as the sun goes down. If melatonin doesn’t rise enough in the evening cortisol can rise above it early in the morning stimulating you to wake up.


Fix the day to fix the night


I know it sounds kind of weird but solving this kind of sleep problem is not so much about solving the night-time issues but regulating things throughout the day so that at night everything falls into place for optimal sleep.


General diet strategy


  • Balance your blood sugar by eating regular meals containing healthy whole foods (protein, fruits and vegetables and healthy fats). Ditch the refined sugar.
  • Be friends with fibre. It promotes deep sleep.
  • Go easy on the caffeine – too much caffeine over stimulates the adrenal glands. Switch coffee for green tea. Green tea contains theanine to help relax the nervous system. Choose a decaffeinated version for night-time.
  • Moderate your alcohol consumption and avoid the “glutamate rebound” that happens about 5 hours after drinking causing your to wake up or have restless sleep.


Your get sleepy grocery list


A small, healthy snack 30-60 minutes before bed can provide the energy you need to balance your blood sugar throughout the night so you can sleep right through.


Low GI Complex carbohydrates:

¼ cup cooked wild rice or quinoa

50g of roasted or steamed sweet potato

These contain the amino acid tryptophan needed to make the neurotransmitters serotonin and melatonin.
Almonds: 6-8 whole almonds or 1 tablespoon of almond butter on ½ green apple Contain magnesium and proteins to stabilise blood sugar
Cottage cheese: 1 tablespoon on slices of pear or brown rice crackers Contains calcium to relax the nervous system and is a good source of tryptophan.
Edamame: ¼ cup of steamed lightly salted beans. The phytoestrogens can be beneficial if menopausal hot flushes are causing sleep disturbance
Miso soup – 1 cup of organic, instant miso. Contains a wide variety of amino acids that support sleep.
Eggs – 1 hard boiled egg Provides protein to stabilise blood sugar and support adrenal glands.
Banana Excellent source of potassium and magnesium to relax muscles and tryptophan for serotonin and melatonin production

Sour cherry juice

30-50mL – diluted with water

High natural source of melatonin




Need help with your sleep?

Norelle Hentschel is an experienced Naturopath with a clinic in Stones Corner, Brisbane who enjoys supporting her clients to reach their health goals.


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