Dr justin gallant nd blog – hamilton naturopathic doctor

During the night your liver is working hard at metabolizing glucose and your brain is actively organizing your thoughts and dreaming. If you eat dinner at 5 or 6pm and then try to go until 8 or 9am without any food you’re going to get hypoglycemic just like you would if you tried to go 14 hours without food during the day. Once our sugar gets too low we pump out cortisol from our adrenal glands. Cortisol is one of our stress hormones. We pump it out naturally to increase our blood sugar but since it’s a stress hormone it wakes us up. Cortisol also inhibits GABA, which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter which helps keep us calm and relaxes our muscles. So now you’re stressed and can’t relax…thanks a lot brain, I thought you were smart?


Once our blood sugar gets too low we must secrete cortisol for survival. Our brains use ~30% of the glucose we take in and even though we’re sleeping, each cell in our body needs glucose for fuel. The more cortisol we secrete, the quicker we’ll pump out adrenaline which can cause nightmares, feelings of panic, night sweats, and cause you to wake up feeling like something is wrong. Secreting these stress hormones all night long will also make you feel nauseous first thing in the morning, since your brain though you were hiding from a wolf all night.

Eating a snack before bed will actually help you lose weight! Bold statement right? Well think about it. If you’re going 10-14 hours without food your body is going to go into famine-mode. It thinks once it gets breakfast that you could go another 12 hours without food so it’s going to store whatever you put into it as fat to be used for energy later. This is the equivalent of your Uncle Bob carrying a bunch of Jerry cans full of gas in his ol’ pick up so he doesn’t have to keep going to the gas station when he’s running on fumes.

To take the guessing game out of it you could always invest in a glucometer to see what your blood sugar is before bed, when you wake up in the middle of the night and when you wake up in the morning. I find that diabetics who have higher blood sugar in the morning can usually bring their blood sugar down by having a proper snack before bed. This is because having a snack before bed will decrease the fasting time period and cortisol won’t be secreted for so long. Once we pump out too much cortisol for too long it’s going to raise our blood sugar by breaking up stored glucose from the liver. Metformin actually works by preventing the breakdown of glycogen in the liver into glucose.

There are plenty of other reasons why we wake up in the middle of the night which can be exacerbated by hypoglycemia as well. For instance, if you have Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH), you may be waking up around 3am because you have to pee. Most men attribute this to the BPH but once I get these guys eating properly and having a snack before bed the urge to urinate doesn’t wake them up anymore. It’s more of a combo of something is going on in your body that would wake a light sleeper but if you can get into the deep sleep, you won’t be so sensitive to it. This effect can happen with almost any symptom that’s preventing you from sleeping (i.e. bloating, pain, flatulence, snoring, etc…) Our bodies are programmed to turn our senses off while we’re sleeping, but if we pump out cortisol we’re going to wake up and those senses will re-engage. Once our senses re-engage we will be able to perceive those internal and external stimuli that we wouldn’t have noticed while in a deep sleep. ​

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, waking up between 1-3am could indicate your liver needs attention. This could be due to anger issues, dietary, excess alcohol, etc… Sometimes just doing acupuncture, taking Chinese herbs or dealing with diet or anger can completely resolve sleep-maintenance insomnia.

I keep having this problem of waking up in the middle of the night, anywhere between 1am and 5am (usually around 3am) feeling absolutely starving! I kept thinking I had a peptic ulcer because the pain was so bad, but I wasn’t experiencing any of the typical heartburn issues. I must not be eating enough protein and I know for certain I don’t eat enough of anything during the day (I have severe chronic pain issues that prevent me from mustering the strength to get up and make GOOD food) and I was wondering if there was anything I could buy that is ready-made with enough protein that I might be able to use when I can’t stand for long and make a healthy meal. Last night I ate a grilled cheese sandwich around 8:30pm and finished it with a homemade milkshake around 9:30 and went to bed soon after, but found myself awakened by 3am feeling starving, which I would have thought was not possible. Any other tips you can offer so I can finally start sleeping through the night again? I greatly appreciate any advice you may have! Thanks for making me feel better about it NOT being a peptic ulcer!

Hi Dr J….. Your article was a real lightbulb moment as it perfectly, logically explains the readin for the 3 am or earlier wake up, often with legs thrashing so much I feel I am running a marathon in my bed. However I don’t fit the rest of the profile. I eat a very balanced diet, with lots of green in it, including a green juice most days. I don’t eat simple carbs and have no craving or spikes. I don’t measure it but I feel my blood sugar behaves as it should. Not stressed or worried about anything, in fact the opposite…. I am generally content with life. The nightly wake up is definitely physical not mental…. I don’t lie there worrying about stuff. So last night I ate my evening meal at 6pm. It was a balanced meal of sweet potato, nut roast and vegetable gravy with broccoli, fennel and tomato. I took an Epsom salt bath at 9pm. Then at 10, although not in the least hungry, ate a small amount of pumpkin seeds, with a small dollop of home made guacamole and a fig. Washed down with a cup of valerian tea. Fell straight asleep as I usually do but then woke up with racing legs as I often do. I’ll persevere with this routine but do you have any insight as to why that didn’t work for me?

Hi, I am 28 years old and I wake up at 1:30am-2 am or so every night. I have had sleep issues for the past 3 months now. The sleep issues initially started as a result of severe work stress combined with a really bad case of the flu/sinusitis which lasted a few weeks. Initially I had trouble falling asleep. This is no longer the case & I drift off around 9:30-10:00pm most nights – but always wake up at the same time. I have tried getting up & reading, breathing exercises, sitting on the floor with a blanket over me and staring into the darkness. I have found over the past few nights I have to urinate several times during the night – which is new. I am not drinking that much water in the evening. I was prescribed Imovane (sleeping pill) but I am not taking that anymore as I want to return to a normal sleeping pattern. Prior to this I have always been an excellent sleeper with no problems falling or staying asleep. I am at my wits end. I eat a healthy diet, no coffee, exercise and I am in a healthy weight range. Do you have any ideas? Greatly appreciated. I live in Australia. I found your page through a google search. I will try eating a snack tonight.

I have adrenal insufficiency or Addison’s disease. The interpretation of my 2 ACTH tests I have had, are obscure. My partner is also in the same situation. We are an elderly couple. We both take 15 mg/day of HC. We wake up between 1 am and 5 am. We get up and take a camomile tea and listen to the radio for a while and then, go back to bed. Sometimes we sleep again straight away. Other times it takes longer. I do not like to get my body/mind use to having food every night when I wake up. Sometimes we eat a few walnuts… it seems to help. I know that the production of cortisol takes place between 3 am and 7 am (we get up at 7 am). But must of the time we are up listening to the radio in the living room… I have never seen anybody until today, you have met me half way so to speak. Is it ok to eat walnuts every night? Thanks for your wise and spot on explanation about the hypoglycemic episodes. (I live in Australia and I read in a book published here about the hypoglycemic fact. No mention about cortisol in her book though). A million thanks Dr Gallant

Ever since February I had a bad reaction to a hormone diet.. HCG that I had been doing on and off for years. I was cold and my inner thighs trembled.. I had arrhythmias red face and all these symptoms that were to me hormonal. (I’m no expert just a conclusion I came to through reading.. also my dr. said I threw off my endocrine system by adding the hcg hormone to my body for such a long time and that I have to ride it out until my endocrine system readjusts.. whatever that means) those symptoms have subsided but I started with insomnia in April. some nights I fall asleep at 11 and then wake up at 2 or 3. That’s a ‘good night’ other nights I can’t even fall asleep. I’ve had nights where I’m just laying in bed with my eyes shut but my mind is wide awake. I’m not worrying about anything I just can’t go to sleep. Weird enough I’m not tired the next day. However I know my body needs to sleep to repair itself and fear that one day I’m just going to drop with so little sleep. I won’t go back to sleep after but I start getting a little sleepy around 7 and might be able to sleep one light hour. (3-7 is cortisol producing hours?.. because that’s the time I cannot sleep!!) am I producing too much cortisol and will your eating protein before bed suggestion help in this case? Can you recommend a Dr in north California? Ty