Not everybody with low blood sugar will end up shaking, sweating, or fainting. Not every woman will turn into a PMS monster, nor every man will succumb to donuts when sugar drops to its low.
Download the chart below to have a complete picture of hypoglycemia symptoms. Stick it on your fridge so you have a easily accessible cheat sheet.
1. Insomnia from low blood sugar
Although hypoglycemia symptoms may not prevent you from falling asleep, it will likely keep you awake in the middle of the night. There is a simple reason why low blood sugar can cause restlessness and insomnia.
Our bodies get into sleeping mode by increasing melatonin production. Melatonin, besides being a powerful antioxidant, is also a sleep hormone. When it gets dark the body produces melatonin from something called serotonin. However, to convert serotonin to melatonin the body needs glucose. Without this energy source this conversion is highly unlikely.
In the middle of the night you may end up with a temporary melatonin deficit AKA insomnia only because you run out of glucose. Some people figured out that if they get up in the middle of the night to eat, they can be eased back to sleep. This works, but there is the potential of adding unwanted pounds as a side effect.
A bit of Chinese..
If you tend to wake up somewhere between 1am and 3am you should read this paragraph. In Traditional Chinese Medicine it is well known that the liver is most active during this time. From modern physiology books we know that it is the liver that is responsible for making glucose out of fat. Liver does that in times when glucose is not directly available from food.
Now, put East and West together and you may come to the conclusion that some insomnia patterns are liver-dependent. If you find yourself awake due to low blood sugar, instead of taking sleeping pills you should look into aiding your liver. That may be a smarter, healthier, and more permanent solution to your problem.
2. Forgetfulness and senior moments, two vital hypoglycemia symptoms
Your brain needs lots of oxygen. It takes only one minute without it and neurons start dying[i]. But just like with a serotonin-melatonin conversion, glucose is needed for oxygen delivery. In other words, low blood sugar means low brain oxygen. And low brain oxygen means low brain function.
You may laugh at yourself and call it cutely a senior moment, when you catch yourself staring blankly at a store shelf. You forgot what you were supposed to buy. It happens, but it is nothing to laugh about.
Forgetfulness is just one of the hypoglycemia symptoms that need serious attention. It is not something you want to ignore. Studies have found that frequent hypoglycemia can lead to memory problems and eventually dementia[ii]. Don’t ignore your senior moments. Take care of your blood sugar to erase forgetfulness and improve brain function.
3. Irritability – something you may control
Feeling angry before lunch or after work? Blaming your boss for the misery of your day? Not so fast! Maybe it is your low blood sugar talking.
Dropping blood sugar is considered a body stressor. And any stressor causes surges of two stress hormones: adrenaline and cortisol. These two fast-acting hormones can lead to immediate changes in personality. Watch your irritability pattern and you may notice a strange correlation between your meals and your emotional well-being. Agitation, aggression, anger and irritability may have nothing to do with your boss or daily stresses, but with your erratic blood sugar.
Insomnia, forgetfulness and irritability are not the only symptoms of hypoglycemia. There may be many more hypoglycemia symptoms that you are not familiar with and therefore not expecting.
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