There is a strong connection between diabetes and sleep issues. People with diabetes often report sleep problems, and sleep problems can enhance the likelihood of developing diabetes or aggravate its symptoms.
First of all, when you do not have enough sleep, your body requires more insulin to keep healthy glucose levels, because sleeplessness makes insulin-producing cells to stop working properly, raising glucose levels and leaving you more susceptible to developing diabetes. Sleep deprivation also raises the chances of getting type 2 diabetes, especially in those who are already predisposed to the disease, such as those overweight or with a family history of the disease.
Second, a lack of sleep is connected to obesity. The less you sleep, the more you overeat. When you are tired, the body produces more ghrelin hormone, which stimulates appetite and decreases the production of leptin hormone, which inhibits hunger. Thus, when you are hungry, you don’t just want to eat more, but you crave more carbohydrates to get a quick energy boost. This increases the severity and leads to complications of diabetes.
Third, fatigue that arises from the lack of sleep adds to the problem as it jolts the sympathetic nervous system into high gear, disabling it from regulating blood sugar and leading to low glucose tolerance.
There is a vicious circle – diabetes symptoms can make it more difficult to sleep and the lack of sleep can make diabetes symptoms worse. Diabetics can face a number of things that can affect their comfort when trying to sleep. The most common sleep problems in diabetics are:
Sleep apnea is one of the most common symptoms of type 2 diabetes, because patients in this group often carry excess weight that constricts their air passage interrupting a person’s breathing during sleep.
Restless leg syndrome is another factor that contributes to disrupted sleep, because a constant urge to move legs, most common in evening hours, makes it harder to fall asleep.
Neuropathic pain that causes uncomfortable tingling and burning sensation in fingers, toes, feet and hands can also affect sleep quality.
As you see, the link between diabetes and poor sleep is undeniable, as one tends to aggravate and intensify the other. At the same time, improving one can make it easier to manage the other.
Sleep is as important as exercise or diet when it comes to diabetes. To lower blood glucose you need more than just a healthy lifestyle with a good diet and purposeful exercise, you need a good night’s sleep. If you aren’t getting enough of it, try to determine why and make some changes:
- Get to bed as early as you can
- Avoid stimulants, such as caffeine and nicotine in the evenings
- Minimize napping during the day if it keeps you up at night
- Do your strenuous exercise in the morning and relaxing exercises closer to bedtime
- Do not eat large meals in the evening
- Do not watch TV, listen to the radio or read books when in bed
- Do not look at your phone or other devices when in bed, as the light coming from screens can throw off your sleep cycle
- Check blood sugar levels regularly because its high levels during the day often make it difficult to sleep effectively at night.
If you still have trouble sleeping, ask your doctor if any of your medications can cause insomnia and ask for an alternative treatment.
Also try to figure out the ideal amount of sleep you need, because there is no gold standard for everyone. Depending on your age and genetics you may need anywhere from 7.30 to 9 hours of a good night’s sleep. If you feel rested at wake-up, no matter how many hours you have slept, it means you are getting enough. Otherwise, you are at risk.