Most adults need between seven and eight hours of sleep at night. If you regularly get less than that amount, you may be putting your health at risk. Sleep deprivation not only makes you more accident-prone and less mentally sharp but getting less than six hours on a regular basis leaves you three times more likely to have elevated blood sugar. Not getting enough sleep can have a negative impact on your diabetes, or put you at risk for developing this disease if you don't already have it.
The effects of poor sleep
Your body needs enough to sleep to function properly. If you are regularly short on sleep, biological and behavioral changes start to occur that can cause you to develop diabetes, or make existing diabetes worse. These changes include the following:
- Impaired glucose tolerance and regulation
- Increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which contributes to insulin resistance (a precursor to diabetes)
- Reduced production of the appetite-suppression hormone leptin
- Increased cravings for sugary foods to fight fatigue
- Increased blood sugar spikes resulting from impulsive food choices
- Weight gain
How to improve your sleep quality
To take charge of your diabetes, start with removing obstacles that may be interfering with sleep. For example, since your body flushes out excess sugar with thirst and urination, keep your blood sugar stable during the day, so you're not up all night using the bathroom. Other changes you can make to help you get a better night's sleep include the following:
- Maintain a consistent sleep schedule.
- Keep your sleep environment cool, dark and quiet.
- Exercise earlier in the day.
- Try relaxing with a warm bath before bedtime.
- Avoid large quantities of food during the last two hours before bed.
- Reduce fluid intake before bed.
- Stop consuming caffeine six to eight hours before the time you wish to fall asleep.
- Avoid nicotine.
- Remove sleep disruptions, such as the cat that jumps on the bed.
- Try scenting your sheets with a calming spray mixture of water and lavender or chamomile essential oils.
- Make a list of things that are weighing on your mind so that you can put them aside while you sleep.
How to ease diabetes-related sleep issues
About half of diabetes sufferers report having sleep problems. While poor sleeping habits make diabetes worse, the disease can also be the trigger for sleep difficulties, making treatment of both an essential goal. Some strategies for easing diabetes-related sleep issues include the following:
- Lose excess weight to ease the symptoms of sleep apnea, in which breathing continuously stops and starts during sleep.
- Try a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine to reduce sleep apnea.
- Quit smoking and have your iron level tested to treat restless leg syndrome.
- Ask your doctor about medication to ease the pain of diabetes-related neuropathy (damage to your nerves).
- Maintain stable glucose levels to reduce headaches, hunger, restless sleep and night sweats.
Make improved sleep a priority to benefit your health and treat your diabetes. Enlist the support of your family and friends, and visit your doctor for advice and strategies to get a better night's sleep.