Is there a link between diabetes and sleep deprivation?
Anyone familiar with diabetes knows what an all-consuming job it is to try to keep those blood sugar levels in check.
Life is busy enough as we try to get ahead or even just keep up in this fast-paced world in which we live.
Add to that the strenuous demands of managing diabetes and takes an incredible amount of additional work just to safely get through each day.
But what about at night?
Can a diabetic really get a good night’s sleep?
How much sleep do they need?
Is there anything we can do to help ensure a better night’s sleep?
Let’s begin with…
Diabetes is a disease where the body either doesn’t produce insulin or doesn’t use insulin effectively. The most common types of diabetes are:
Type 1 diabetes
In type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks and kills the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. This means the person can no longer produce insulin.
Insulin is required for our cells to be able to use the glucose from the food we have eaten as energy. Without insulin, our cells can’t get the glucose they need.
Type 1 diabetics are required to inject insulin several times a day.
Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes occurs when a person’s body is either resistant to insulin or does not produce enough. Type 2 diabetes is often a result of poor lifestyle choices. Treatment usually includes a healthy, well-balanced diet, regular exercise and some oral medications,
How diabetes affects sleep
The fact that you have diabetes doesn’t necessarily mean that your sleep will be affected. What makes the difference is the symptoms you have and how well you manage those symptoms. Certain symptoms have a higher chance of impacting your sleep:
- High blood sugar levels cause frequent urination. This means you will likely wake several times throughout the night to use the bathroom.
- When you have too much glucose in your blood your body draws fluids from your tissues in an attempt to expel the extra sugars in your urine. This can leave you thirsty and possibly dehydrated. You make awaken feeling thirsty and require a drink of water.
- Some people experience shakiness, dizziness and sweating when their blood sugars fall too low. These symptoms may awaken you at night.
How much sleep do I need?
There is no doubt many of us are walking around every day unaware of just how sleep deprived we really are.
Add to that diabetes symptoms waking us as well and we certainly have a recipe for disaster.
Our bodies just can’t keep up at this pace and unfortunately, it is usually our health that suffers because of it.
So how much sleep do we need?
That answer is different for everyone, this handy chart is a great guide.
Remember this chart is showing the amount of sleep you need. You will need to add 15 – 60 minutes to this time to allow yourself the time to fall asleep.
So how do we know if we are sleep deprived?
Ask yourself these questions to help determine if you require more sleep than you have been getting:
- Once awake, could you easily fall back asleep around 10 am or 11 am? If you answered yes, you are either not getting enough sleep or your quality of sleep is inadequate.
- Can you function optimally without caffeine in the morning? If not, you are likely medicating your sleep-deprived self with caffeine.
- If you did not set an alarm, would you awaken at the same time? If not you need more sleep than you have been getting.
- When working on your computer, do you find yourself rereading the same sentence over and over? This is often a symptom of a fatigued, under-slept brain.
Adequate sleep needs to be a consistent, daily habit and this is even more important if you are also living with diabetes.
Disorders related to diabetes
While many of us toss and turn at night, it can be more common in people with diabetes.
Yes, it could merely be a result of diabetes symptoms, but there could also be a separate medical condition that may disrupt your sleep.
Some sleep disorders may be more common in diabetics.
This is a very common sleep disorder that is common in people with diabetes.
Sleep apnea occurs when your breathing repeatedly stops and restarts throughout the night.
In a 2009 study, researchers found that 86% of participants had sleep apnea in addition to diabetes and of those 55% had it severe enough to require treatment.
Sleep apnea is common in type 2 diabetics because they tend to also be overweight which can obstruct airways.
Symptoms of sleep apnea can include feeling tired during the day and snoring at night.
You may be at a higher risk if there is a family history of sleep apnea or if you are overweight.
Treatment may involve losing weight or wearing a special mask at night to help increase air pressure to your throat and allow easier breathing.
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
The most commonly recognized characteristic of Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is a constant urge to move your legs.
It most commonly occurs in the evening, making it more difficult to fall asleep.
RLS may occur as a result of an iron deficiency.
You may be at a higher risk if:
- have high blood glucose levels
- have kidney problems
- thyroid disorders
- have a history of anemia (low Iron)
- you smoke
Be sure to talk with your doctor if you have any of the heightened risk factors.
Most at risk are people with high levels of stress and high blood glucose levels.
Over-the-counter, sleeping aids won’t cure insomnia.
Seeking treatment with a medical practitioner will help you identify the trigger.
Possible triggers could be job-related stress or family difficulties.
Tips for improving quality of sleep
If you are finding that are sleep-deprived there are a few things you can do that may help improve your quality of sleep or your ability to fall asleep.
Avoid using your cell phone or e-reader in the few hours leading up to bedtime.
Switch to traditional books that can help quiet the mind and reduce strain on the eyes.
If you can’t avoid screentime there are special glasses designed to reduce eye fatigue from the blue light of screens.
You may think a glass of wine will help relax you so you can fall asleep more easily but alcohol before bed won’t keep you asleep all night. You have a higher chance of waking in the night and being unable to fall back asleep.
Don’t keep your cell phone in your bedroom or turn your phone off if you receive texts or other messages during the night.
Purchasing an alarm clock may be just the inspiration you need to turn that phone off because you don’t need an app as an alarm clock.
There is an abundance of outside noise that can disrupt our sleeping patterns such as
- birds chirping
- garbage collectors
- people leaving for early morning jobs
Simply turning on a ceiling, desk or pedestal fan may help muffle these other distracting sounds.
Getting a good night’s sleep consistently requires going to bed at the same time every night and getting up at the same time every morning.
By setting a regular pattern you are training your circadian rhythm.
Drinking caffeinated beverages and exercising an hour or two before bedtime should be avoided.
The only type of evening exercise that could be considered would be a slow-paced yoga session that is designed to prepare your body for sleep.
All other exercises will increase blood flow and it will take some time for your body to calm down afterwards.
In this article, we have discussed diabetes and sleep deprivation.
We briefly touched on what diabetes is and how it can affect both the amount of sleep and the quality of sleep.
We have also discussed how much sleep we need and how that can vary from person to person.
Common sleep disorders that are common amongst diabetics was another topic.
We no longer need to walk around sleep deprived each day.
Helpful tips were offered to aid in ensuring we get the amount of sleep we need in order to function at our peak.
Are you sleep-deprived?
Have you developed any of the sleep disorders we discussed?
What was your solution?
Leave your answers and helpful suggestions in the comment section below.
I am not in any way a medical practitioner, please do not rely on the information on our website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or another healthcare provider. We only share our experiences. We are affiliates, this means that if you purchase something from a link or ad on this site we may receive a small commission. This in no way affects the price you pay.