Most adults I know prefer to be asleep between the hours of 2 and 4 am. If you fall into this same category, but your body and mind feel otherwise, have you ever stopped to wonder why? If you’ve had an increase in your middle-of-the- night waking more recently, or if this has been a long-standing issue, I suggest you read on to better understand why this may be happening to you.

Currently I’m working with a number of clients who are dealing with this very issue. Interestingly enough, although they’ve invested time into the process of becoming a better metabolic detective, they still are feeling a bit confused as to why this is happening. As part of our coaching calls, I’ve shared with them some of what will be shared with you today through this post.

While I can’t say with 100% confidence what their body is trying to tell them, I know for sure that this middle of the night waking is a result of something being out of balance. There are some common triggers that may be leading to their middle-of-the-night waking, and most understand that sleep is a definite priority as part of the process of shape change. 

Before we look at a few of these common triggers, I want you to understand that pushing “harder” on your metabolism could be the very thing that is back-firing. When you read about these common triggers, consider if you’ve been trying to “do more” with things like longer fasts or harder workouts, or if you’ve been cutting back on your calories (including protein and fiber specifically). Or maybe you’ve been staying up 10 minutes later every night to check that last email at bedtime. 

These little changes add up, and even subtle changes to your daily routine can throw things out of balance somewhat quickly. Your body is always a source of biofeedback. So what could be happening as a result of any of these seemingly mild or insignificant changes? 

Let’s look at 4 common reasons why your body is pushing back and letting you know that your lifestyle changes have been more significant than you may think.

  • Your blood sugar isn’t balanced: When your blood sugar is being properly managed, you should experience more stable and predictable hunger. You’ll most likely notice that your cravings can be more easily managed with buffer foods too. If middle-of-the-waking happened in the midst of making changes to your lifestyle, your changes may be impacting your blood sugar.

When your blood sugar is not being properly managed, you will experience a more dramatic rise and fall of blood sugar leading to symptoms such as irritability, light-headedness, dizziness, rapid heartbeat or palpitations, confusion, extreme hunger, restlessness, or sudden perspiration. Cutting back too heavily on starch, protein, or fibrous foods may be a factor here, along with adding in workouts too close to bedtime.

  • Your meal timing has become irregular and the new patterns aren’t working: Irregular eating intervals throughout the day, including any version of intermittent fasting may not be best for your body. If you are skipping breakfast as you focus on fasting into the later morning or early afternoon, recognize that this may not be a good fit for your physiology. 

Even moving up your dinner time and then ignoring hunger signals before bed may be an issue. Your body may wake you up in the middle of the night to alert you to falling blood sugar, or as a sign that stress is rising internally. Although some nutrition gurus may say eating too close to bed isn’t ideal, your body may prefer something light prior to bed. Understand that the meal timing and patterns should be adjusted according to what works best for you! 

  • You simply aren’t eating enough: When you’ve cut back on calories, hence you’ve eliminated some important macronutrients, your body is designed to give you feedback to signal that you need to eat more. You may feel hungry more often, or experience signs of low blood sugar that were once absent. You may find it more difficult to push through your workouts or meet your movement goals. 

Food is fuel, and cutting back on your nutrition may indirectly lead to lower levels of protein and fiber which were at one point doing a better job of keeping your hunger at bay. If you’ve started to exercise more, or have added a more intense workout to your weekly schedule, you may need to eat more to match your exercise output. Cutting back isn’t always necessary to see the body shape changes you are seeking.

  • Your hormones aren’t balanced: Hormones are a complicated topic, and we have many hormones working together. Hormones don’t really work in isolation either. We have hormones for controlling things like hunger and appetite, and we have hormones that work together as part of the female cycle. We have hormones that help to balance our blood sugar, and hormones that help to respond to and manage our level of stress. 

At Metabolic Living, we use SHMEC as an indicator of hormonal balance to help simplify this complicated symphony within your body. More specifically if you are female, watch for irregular cycles or a spike in hot flashes to also let you know that your hormones need some work.

So what if you’ve identified one or more of these concerns as being applicable to you and your lifestyle may need some further refinements? This can be corrected through a simple approach rather than turning it into a difficult process full of testing and bloodwork. 

First, recognize that any of these metabolic reactions leading to your middle-of-the-night waking are signs and signals. Your body is signaling that it is out of balance and your stress levels aren’t being properly regulated, internally or externally. Remember, according to Dr. Jade, your metabolism is one big stress barometer. 

After recognizing that your SHMEC being out of check indicates your metabolism being out of balance, dedicate some time and energy to being a better metabolic detective. In this video, Lora and Bella share some tips on how to do exactly that! 

As you practice your metabolic detective skills, stay committed to a similar plan of action for at least 7-14 days. This plan of action doesn’t need to be overly complicated but should include realistic action steps that you can commit to on a daily basis, and remember that consistency matters. Don’t think that skimping on sleep for 10 minutes every other day, or skipping lunch a few times a week, equates to consistency. 

Finally, remember any deviation from your baseline plan can throw off your SHMEC, but you have the power to become the best metabolic detective you can be. Hopefully you’ll soon be in a state of sweet slumber every night and will no longer need to be a middle-of-the-night metabolic detective! 

Photo by Mpho Mojapelo on Unsplash