Can Too Much Sugar Keep Me Awake?

A couple eating icecream at night while watching a movie.
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It's long been thought that people -- especially kids -- who can't settle down for a good night's rest need to lay off the sugar. However, there's not much medical evidence to back up that line of thinking. A number of behaviors contribute to insomnia, one of which is your eating and drinking habits before bed; however, sugar is not the substance most likely to keep you awake at night.


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Although many people think that sugar overload leads to hyperactivity, especially in children, actual evidence proving this is somewhat scant. Refined sugars do produce rapid fluctuations in your blood-glucose levels, which could cause an adrenaline rush that would make it difficult to fall asleep; however, hyperactivity has not been definitively linked to sugar, sugar substitutes or food colorings, as many parents claim.



Many beverages that contain sugar -- such as sodas, coffee drinks, energy drinks and hot chocolate -- also contain caffeine, a known stimulant. If you consume any of these beverages in the evening, the caffeine may be what's keeping you awake, not the sugar.


Insomnia Causes

Overeating late in the evening could cause insomnia, regardless of the food's content; when you don't give your body a chance to digest before lying down, an uncomfortable feeling and/or heartburn can result. Nicotine and alcohol use can also cause sleep problems. If your insomnia is chronic, it may be due to stress, depression, medications, certain medical conditions, poor sleep habits, or environmental or schedule changes. Addressing these underlying problems usually results in better sleep patterns.



Treating an underlying condition can help reduce insomnia, and prescription or over-the-counter sleep aids are available for severe cases. Behavior therapy, such as stimulus control and relaxation techniques, can also help in some cases. You can also change your behaviors on your own; for example, eat dinner several hours before going to bed and avoid alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and large beverages late in the evening. If you think sugary foods are keeping you awake, try to limit them in the later part of the day as well; everyone's body works a little differently, and cutting back on sugar might just do the trick for you.