There are a number of internal and external factors that affect our sleep. From adjusting to a different time zone to medications you’re taking or just setting the thermometer too high or too low, getting a good night’s sleep is one of those things that’s tricky to nail down. As it turns out, diabetes and sleep is an even trickier combination.
Studies have suggested that getting less sleep (and lower quality sleep) can increase the possibility for Type 2 diabetes by affecting insulin resistance. So it comes as no shock that sleep can have a pretty major effect on blood sugar levels for people with Type 1 diabetes, as well.
A big concern for the T1D community has long been having a night time hypo, which can disturb sleep and wake you up with unpleasant symptoms like headaches and sweating. Apps and technology have helped curb this worry a bit and provide “insulin insurance” against a nocturnal hypo.
What’s the Connection Between Diabetes and Sleep?
A 2006 Study from the Archives of Internal Medicine found that people with diabetes who have poor sleep quality report having higher than average A1C levels, though it isn’t fully understood why that connection exists. A good place to start, however, is by looking at the lifecycle of the daily routine.
It’s a vicious cycle – a lack of sleep generally forces people to eat more unhealthy foods that have more sugars. This, in turn, spikes blood sugar levels and makes the kidneys kick into high gear to get rid of it through urination. This causes a break in sleep or in REM sleep cycles and can lead to not getting enough quality sleep.
Aside from that, studies have shown that getting less than 7 to 8 hours a night of good sleep can increase the body’s production of cortisol – a stress hormone – which can cause insulin resistance in people with Type 2 diabetes (or in people who don’t have diabetes, making them more prone to pre-diabetes).
Who’s More at Risk for Sleep Issues?
Sleep disturbances can affect pretty much anyone, regardless of age and health. However, teenagers and adults with busy schedules are more prone to suffering from lack of sleep. Teens tend to go to bed later in the evenings, while still having to wake up early for school, and adults with busy schedules often sacrifice a full eight hours of rest to catch up on work and responsibilities at home.
Preventing Complications by Preparing for Sleep
Stress is a common factor for poor sleep quality. Combine that with a myriad of other factors that include having the right sleep setup (a quality mattress, comfortable room temperature, and effectively blocking out light), avoiding distractions like TVs and mobile phones in the bedroom, and giving yourself time at the end of the day to wind down), many people don’t prepare for a good night’s sleep.
So what steps should you take to make sure you get a solid night of rest?
Set a routine and stick with it. Setting a time to wake up and go to bed will help get your body in the routine of sleeping for a set number of hours each night.
Be mindful of what you eat and drink in the evenings. Anything with caffeine in the late afternoon to early evening hours can seriously affect your ability to fall asleep at night – even a small cup of coffee after dinner.
Take your long-acting insulin on time.
Keep TVs, computers, and mobile phones out of the bedroom. They serve as distractions and various lights and noisy notifications can impair sleep.
Make sure exercise or hard physical activity is performed earlier in the day. Exercising in the evenings or a few hours before bedtime can make it difficult to fall asleep later.
Check your blood sugar before heading to bed, since that can affect whether or not you get a good night’s sleep.
Keep a quick-acting carb by your bedside in case you wake up from a hypo.
Eat a protein at night before going to sleep. Proteins are thought to increase late plasma glucose response.
While sleep can have an affect on your blood sugar – and vice versa, taking precautions and preparing for a good night’s sleep can go a long way in keeping you healthy and making you feel great.