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Being plagued by excessive fatigue is bad enough, but problems with blood sugar regulation can also lead to even scarier downstream issues including heart disease, stroke, cancer, dementia, and more. Feeling sleepy all the time and being chronically fatigued are classic reactive hypoglycemia and insulin resistance symptoms.
The standard American diet, high in simple sugars and processed foods, is notorious for causing problems with blood sugar regulation. In the short term, eating a meal loaded with sugar and refined carbs (like white flour) can cause you to experience wild swings in blood sugar. These large blood sugar swings make you feel tired, anxious, irritable, and hungry for more quickly absorbed sugars. Feeling sleepy all the time and experiencing these other symptoms of blood sugar dysregulation after a high-carb meal is not normal, nor is it healthy. These are the classic signs of what is known as reactive hypoglycemia and they may be insulin resistance symptoms, which is more serious and could be an early warning sign of diabetes down the road according to the medical journal, Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes and Obesity.
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So how are sugars and sweets linked to the problem of feeling sleepy all the time along with reactive hypoglycemia and insulin resistance symptoms? Eating this way carries with it a “high glycemic load,” meaning it contains high amounts of the kind of carbohydrates which quickly release their sugars into the bloodstream.
High-glycemic-load diets have been shown in human studies to lead to feeling sleepy all the time, daytime fatigue, poorer sleep, and slower cognitive performance.[2,3] In the long term, eating a diet full of empty calories, refined carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice, potatoes), sugars, and sweetened beverages (sodas, juices, sports drinks) can cause chronic fatigue and perpetual daytime sleepiness as insulin resistance symptoms and pre-diabetes.
How Do Insulin Resistance Symptoms Develop?
The process of eating a high-sugar, high-refined carbohydrate diet day in and day out pressures your pancreas to secrete more and more insulin in the attempt to lower your blood sugar. Over time, your cells start to become resistant, or numb, to so much insulin. This is when insulin resistance, the pre-diabetic condition that has become an epidemic, develops.
Unfortunately, early insulin resistance symptoms such as reactive hypoglycemia are usually vague and are often not recognized by the individual as being related to their feeling sleepy all the time.
What Is Reactive Hypoglycemia?
Reactive hypoglycemia symptoms which can occur in the early stages of insulin resistance, is characterized by low blood sugar symptoms like fatigue, weakness, dizziness, sweating, shakiness, palpitations, anxiety, nausea, a sensation of hunger, and difficulty with concentration which occur after eating an abundance of sugar or refined carbs.
A typical breakfast these days, consisting of a large sweetened coffee drink and a pastry, for instance, will give you a big energy surge as your sugar and insulin levels spike. What follows, however, is an inevitable crash as your blood sugar plummets and you experience low blood sugar symptoms like feeling sleepy all the time.
The long-term consequences of insulin resistance symptoms are serious and scary. A high insulin level in your blood, which can easily be measured by your doctor, is the classic sign of insulin resistance. High insulin causes your body to lose muscle while it creates more belly fat, more inflammation, and more oxidative stress.
The downstream effects of this—besides an expanding waistline and feeling sleepy all time— are scary. High insulin levels and insulin resistance symptoms are linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, low sex drive, infertility, depression, heart disease, stroke, dementia, cancer—all the common diseases of aging. And the person with insulin resistance will develop one or more of these serious diseases far in advance of their normal time.[7-9]
If you’re sick of asking yourself why you’re feeling sleepy all the time<, the answer could have to do with problems regulating your blood sugar and insulin levels, causing reactive hypoglycemia symptoms and insulin resistance symptoms. To remedy this, you need to reduce the overall glycemic impact of your diet.
Learn how to do this by reading Suffering From High Blood Sugar Symptoms? Use This Glycemic Index Food List. Besides blood sugar problems, there are a number of other underlying causes of fatigue that doctors commonly ignore. Learn about two of these other causes of chronic fatigue and feeling sleepy all the time: leaky gut syndrome and chronic inflammation.
For further reading, see the following University Health News posts:
- “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Treatment: Hope Lies Ahead“
- “Chronic Fatigue Treatment: How to Get Your Energy Level Back on Track“
- “High-Energy Diet: 5 Ways to Fuel Your Body“
Originally published in 2012, this post has been updated.