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Sugar & Sleep


Sleep deprivation is one of the most common and long term challenges we face as mums. The loss of sleep comes from broken sleep, getting less sleep than usual, lack of deep sleep (often from anxiety or worry about our children) or a combination of all of these!

It can only take a couple of bad nights for sleep deprivation to really take its toll on our overall wellbeing. Nutrition unfortunately can be the first thing to go out the window. You crave an instant energy hit, have little time to spend on food preparation and your mood can also really take a dive, making good food choices seem impossible.

I have a lot of mums come to work with me who say “if only I had more will power”.

Trust me when I say it is not a lack of will power. We are incredibly strong, carrying our babies for nine long months, bringing them into this world and operating on low levels of sleep, sometimes for many years. Poor sleep has a huge impact on our hormones. It may surprise you to know it only takes one night of broken sleep for the hormones in your body responsible for regulating hunger and how full you feel to be affected - your hormones send a little signal to your brain saying that you are hungrier. Plus, your blood sugar hormone (insulin) is affected, altering how well your body can process sugar. 

The take home point here is that it is not a lack of will power at all! A lack of sleep literally affects your cravings and how you respond to sugar. This is why one of my core messages is to keep your sugar down. Although it is what we crave the most, it will only add to the cycle of crashing energy levels, not give you the nutrients you need to enable your body to repair (especially from birth) and increase your risk of sickness.

Next are some of my top tips to help keep your sugar intake down when you are really tired. Remember to be kind to yourself while you are at it, you are up against some tough circumstances.


Rather than focus on what you cannot have, or are trying to cut down on, focus on what you can eat. Try instead to include more dietary fat and protein-based options as possible. Both will really help with maintaining energy levels and combating cravings. There has been a lot of new research in the last few years showing us that good dietary fat can really help mediate some of the hormone changes that happen with stress and a lack of sleep – and can actually help kick start weight loss.


When you have been up half the night your natural circadian rhythm is going to be out of sorts so you may be more, or less, hungry at times that you do not expect – this is ok, just run with it do not worry about the clock. Eating according to how your body feels is much more important and will keep your energy up thus preventing cravings later on.


Dinner often a stressful time of evening. We are often juggling feeds, bath time, and our fatigue can be felt the most at this time of day. When days are going to be pear-shaped I like to know that dinner is taken care of. It means that whatever happens for the rest of the day, the evening meal is sorted and can be eaten at any time. It is one of the major reasons I created my cook book Healthy Easy Dinners for Busy Mums. Simple, healthy meals which can be made in advance and easily frozen. Of course, some days this just is not possible so look for the best options (like baked beans on whole-grain bread) and remember tomorrow is another day.


Snacks can be out biggest down fall bad days. Having a container of bliss balls ready to snack on is very helpful. Sometimes carrot sticks are not going to cut the mustard when you are really exhausted so this is a way to sneak in some good dietary fat and protein. Check out my Apricot, Coconut & Nut Balls below.


If you do reach for the chocolate bar at 10am, just move on and please forgive yourself – sleep deprivation is extremely challenging, let alone when you have little people demanding love and care from you – feeling bad about it will only reinforce the guilt-cycle. Every meal is a new meal and every day is a new day.

BONUS RECIPE | Apricot, Coconut and Nut Balls

The best part of this recipe is that it requires no baking, just pop everything into a food processor and you are done! The coconut and nuts provide some good fats and protein, plus there is only a few apricots for a bit of sweetness.


  • 100g Dried apricots
  • 70g Walnut pieces (1 packet)
  • 70g Sliced Almonds
  • 1 Cup Coconut thread (or shredded coconut)
  • 2 Tb Dark coco powder
  • 4 Tb Coconut Oil
  • Desiccated Coconut (for rolling balls in)


  • Place all ingredients into a food processor and pulse until well combined.
  • Roll into balls in your hands and then place on a plate and roll in desiccated coconut (recipe makes approximately 20 small balls)

To store place in an air-tight container and keep in the fridge – will last at least a week (unless household members gobble them up!!)

CLICK HERE to link to the recipe on Dr. Julie's website

Dr. Julie xx

Dr. Julie Bhosale is an internationally-renowned family wellbeing and nutrition expert, author, and speaker. She has a two boys aged 4 and 2 years old! Dr Julie regularly features as a guest expert on Paul Henry, Breakfast and in the New Zealand Herald. She has also appeared live on Seven Sharp, Sunrise and 9 News in Australia, RTL in Germany and The Lorraine Show in the UK. Her online community is free to join via her website and you will receive weekly nutrition advice, new recipe ideas and details of her upcoming events.

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