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Does Diabetes Affect My Sleep?

August 1, 2022

It’s important for T1Ds to get their rest! Getting adequate sleep is key to feeling your best and living a healthy life. However, it’s extremely common for diabetics to have issues falling and staying asleep. If you’re struggling to get a good night’s rest, know that you’re not alone, and there are several ways to combat it to get the much needed sleep you need.

How Does Diabetes Affect Sleep?

Insomnia occurs when you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep for long periods of time. In a research study performed and published by The National Library of Medicine, researchers discovered a direct link between diabetes and sleep disruption. Some of the reasons that diabetics, in particular, may have trouble sleeping through the night are:

High blood sugar levels. This can cause a diabetic to go to the bathroom frequently at night.
Excess glucose. If you have too much glucose, your body will begin pulling water from your tissues, and you’ll wake up thirsty.
Low blood sugar levels. Just like having high blood sugar can cause you to get up and go to the bathroom during the night, low blood sugar can have its own negative effect. Low blood sugar symptoms may impact your sleep, including trembling, lightheadedness, and perspiration.
Common Sleep Disorders for People with Diabetes

Many sleep disorders can make it difficult for people with diabetes to get some shut-eye. These are the most common.

Insomnia

As previously stated, insomnia occurs when a person cannot get to sleep or stay asleep. This condition can be caused by various factors, including anxiety, overstimulation of the brain, caffeine intake, depression, bipolar disorder, and more. Diabetics are prone to insomnia because of fluctuating blood sugar levels. The Sleep Foundation states that “high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) and low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) during the night can lead to insomnia and next-day fatigue.”

Sleep Apnea

It may be more challenging to control your diabetes if you have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition in which a person stops breathing while they’re asleep which causes a spike in blood carbon dioxide. This increase can result in insulin resistance, raised sugar levels, high blood pressure, and an increased risk for cardiovascular diseases. Diabetics with sleep apnea may also wake up with headaches in the morning.

Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless legs syndrome is characterized by tingling or other irritable sensations in the legs that can prevent people from falling asleep. Similarly, peripheral neuropathy is another condition that people with diabetes are susceptible to. The signs of peripheral neuropathy, which is brought on by nerve injury, are quite similar to those of RLS and include tingling, numbness, and pain in the extremities. People who encounter these symptoms should speak with a doctor to take action to avoid permanent nerve damage.

Side Effects of Poor Sleep With Diabetes

Many diabetics report feeling as if they are walking underwater and have trouble focusing. This groggy feeling comes from fluctuating insulin, glucose, and blood pressure levels.

Other signs that you’re not getting a good night’s sleep include snoring, gasping for air in the night, and not feeling well-rested even after 8 hours of sleep.

According to the CDC, If you get less than 7 hours of sleep per night regularly, your diabetes will be harder to manage. Too little sleep can:

Increase insulin resistance.
Make you hungrier the next day and reduce how full you feel after eating.
Make you more likely to reach for junk foods high in carbs and sugar.
Make it harder to lose weight.
Raise blood pressure and seriously increase the risk of a heart attack.
Make your immune system less able to fight infections.
Increase your risk of depression and anxiety.
How Can Diabetics Improve Sleep?

There are several ways that you can improve your quality of sleep if you have diabetes. Some of the most common improvements are simple lifestyle changes.

Turn off the electronics before bed.

A study by PLoS One Journal shows that blue light exposure is linked to an increase in insulin resistance and the body’s decreased ability to move blood sugar from your bloodstream to your cells to be used for energy.

Blue light from your computer, phone, and television can keep you awake for hours after you lie down to go to sleep. It’s a good idea to keep these items out of your bedroom entirely so that you don’t continue stimulating your brain when it’s time to rest. Turning off electronics can help you to unwind and relax; try reading a book before bed instead!

Go to bed at the same time.

As most T1Ds know, setting a routine and sticking to it is essential. Going to bed at the same time every night can help your body to get into a routine and make it easier to get a restful night’s sleep. This helps to regulate your circadian rhythm and keep you on track. Recent studies have linked circadian clocks to obesity, diabetes, and heart attacks.

Exercise during the day.

You will have much more restful sleep if you get some physical activity in while you’re awake! Fitting in 10-15 minutes of exercise a few times a day can make all the difference in how tired you are when it’s time to rest. Exercise can also aid in calorie burning and healthy weight maintenance. Even a minor weight decrease, if you are overweight, can help you better manage your diabetes.

Your doctor may recommend medication for you to help you sleep. However, you mustn’t begin taking any prescription medication without consulting a licensed physician.

How Many Hours of Sleep Should Diabetics Get?

People with diabetes should aim for at least 7 hours of sleep every night to keep blood sugar levels in check. If you work nights, make an effort to maintain regular dinner and bedtimes when you’re at home. Additionally, during your breaks, engage in some activity like quick walks or stretching.

There Is Hope For T1Ds Experiencing Sleep Issues

Waking up in the middle of the night as a diabetic can be very jarring and worrisome. The good news is that you can sleep better with diabetes through lifestyle changes and monitoring your blood sugar and insulin levels, but it doesn’t have to control your sleep schedule. Lifestyle changes and monitoring your blood sugar and insulin levels can help you find a good balance that will improve your sleep quality.

If you’re looking for more resources, we’re here to help. Check out some of our other articles about diabetes tips and advice.

Disclaimer: THIS IS FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND SHOULD NOT BE TAKEN AS A MEDICAL ADVICE. For those with existing medical conditions, those who are taking medications, or are uncertain about any information we share, proper consultation with your trusted physician is strongly recommended.

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