Diabetic & Me

How Does Diabetes Affect Sleep? Solutions for Getting a Good Nights Rest

How Does Diabetes Affect Sleep Solutions for Getting a Good Nights Rest

Sleep is an important part of staying healthy and happy, so it's not just a matter of convenience but an issue of quality of life for those who have diabetes. But how does diabetes affect sleep? This blog post will list some ways to get a good night’s rest while living with diabetes or prediabetes.

In this Diabetic & Me article you will learn about:

  • How does diabetes affect sleep?
  • How does poor sleep affect blood sugar levels?
  • What are the most common sleep disorders in people with diabetes?
  • How to get a good night's sleep?

It's estimated that one in two people with type 2 diabetes has sleep problems. This is due to many different reasons, such as unstable blood sugar levels and the effects of sleep on blood glucose control. 

How Does Diabetes Affect Sleep?

Diabetes can affect your sleep in a number of ways, and it can be hard to feel rested when you're dealing with the symptoms. Some of the possible factors why you sleep bad are;

  • Sleep apnea
  • Hypoglycemia at night
  • High blood sugars during the day and lower during the night to prevent low levels in your morning. This can cause symptoms such as feeling tired or foggy while you're awake, but then not being able to sleep well when it's time for bed.
  • Being overweight which decreases oxygen flow to your extremities causing numbness and tingling sensations that make it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep through the night.
  • When blood sugar levels are high the kidneys produce more urine which can make you urinate frequently and this will disturb your sleep.
  • Neuropathy, the most common complication of diabetes, that affects sensation in your feet can also prevent quality sleep due to feeling like something is constantly poking or prodding at them. Using a foot cream or foot massager can help relieve the pains from neuropathy.

With these symptoms it's important to keep a regular routine when going to bed so you're not too tired during the day.

How Does Poor Sleep Affect Blood Sugar Levels?

Getting poor sleep or less sleep than needed can disrupt the body's natural rhythms and cause a spike in blood sugar levels.

Poor sleep habits will affect your metabolism, especially if they are consistent over time. When we don't get enough restful sleep our bodies see this as a stressor which releases excess hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline, noradrenaline and growth hormones. These hormones will increase sugar and fat storage which can lead to weight gain, insulin resistance or diabetes.

Poor sleep habits are also linked with increased inflammation in the body, which is a major factor for heart disease, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s Disease.

It affects your blood glucose levels because of the stress on the hormonal system from lack of sleep causing your body to store more sugar and fats than necessary (especially if it's consistent). It can also impair how well you deal with stressful situations in life due to a lack of quality restful sleep affecting memory retention, cognitive abilities, mood stability, and more.

What Sleep Disorders Are Common in People with Diabetes?

Some of the more well known sleep disorders that are common in people with diabetes are Restless Legs Syndrome and Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

Restless Leg Syndrome

People with diabetes may experience a condition called restless leg syndrome (RLS). This is when the person has an overwhelming urge to move their legs which can interrupt sleep or cause them to wake up at night. RLS commonly causes problems in people who have neuropathy, peripheral vascular disease, other medical conditions that affect circulation such as heart failure, kidney disorders and Parkinson's Disease. It also affects women more often than men due to hormonal changes associated with pregnancy and childbirth. RLS becomes worse during times of stress because of higher levels of adrenaline production by the body.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Many people with diabetes may not even be aware that they are experiencing Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). They may have symptoms of snoring, gasps for air during sleep and waking up often at night. It typically occurs in people that are overweight, those who are male and older than 50. OSA is more common in people with diabetes because of higher levels of the hormone serotonin that relaxes throat muscles during sleep time.

How to get a good night's sleep?

One possible solution for getting a better night’s sleep could be using an insulin pump or continuous monitoring device that can help you regulate your dosage more efficiently. Another option is to make sure you are eating at regular intervals during the day, which will result in stable levels of energy throughout the day and less chance of hypoglycemic episodes at night.

But there are other things you can do that may help remedy this problem, either by preventing difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep:

  • Test your blood sugar levels before going to bed so you can address any issues that can happen at night.
  • Try a bedtime routine that helps you relax and get ready for sleep such as reading, doing gentle stretches or breathing exercises.
  • Eat regularly throughout the day so your blood sugar is more stable. Avoid heavy meals before going to bed unless instructed by your doctor as these will raise insulin levels which could affect sleep quality.
  • There is no "perfect" or right amount of sleep for everyone but it should be related to how old you are. New research suggests that adults between 18 and 64 years old need seven hours of sleep per night whereas adults 65 and older may only require six hours; children aged three to five need 11–13 hours while kids from six to 13 years old need at least nine hours.

Conclusion

Sleep is an important part of staying healthy and happy, so it's not just a matter of convenience but an issue of quality of life for those who have diabetes. First, make sure you are getting enough sleep every day by sticking to your normal bedtime routine no matter what time you wake up in the morning (or if you don't go to bed at all). Second, keep blood sugar levels regulated by eating regular meals throughout the day that include protein and fat along with carbohydrates; this way they won’t drop too low after dinner when most people eat dessert.

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About the author

Ely Fornoville

Hi, I'm Ely Fornoville and I am the founder of Diabetic & Me. Being a type 1 diabetic since 1996 I developed a passion to help people learn more about diabetes. I write about diabetes and share stories from other diabetics around the world.I am currently using a Freestyle Libre CGM and a Minimed 640G insulin pump with Humalog.

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