Diabetes and healthy sleep

How people with or at risk of diabetes can improve their quality of sleep and minimize their risks.

It is not exactly breaking news that people in the United States are not getting enough sleep. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 35 percent of Americans report getting less than the recommended amount of sleep each night. As our mothers always told us, a good night’s sleep keeps you healthy and helps you have the energy to do your best.

The consequences of not getting enough sleep for people with diabetes: People who don’t get enough sleep are prone to a long list of health problems, including type 2 diabetes. There is currently research being done to determine how lack of adequate sleep affects diabetes, but the CDC says that it’s possible that for some people, preventing or controlling diabetes is as simple as getting an extra hour or two of sleep each night.

Why getting enough sleep is important: The US Department of Health and Human Services shares the many benefits of getting a good night’s sleep:

  • You will be less likely to get sick.
  • You will be more likely to stay at a healthy weight.
  • You can lower your risk of high blood pressure and diabetes.
  • You can boost your brainpower and your mood.
  • You can think more clearly and do better in school and at work.
  • You can make better decisions and avoid injuries. For example, sleepy drivers cause thousands of car crashes every year.

Why some people can’t fall asleep: Michigan State University Extension wants to make readers aware that many things can make it harder to sleep, including:

  • Stress, worry, anxiety and other emotional issues
  • Pain
  • Some medicines
  • Some chronic health conditions
  • Eating too late at night
  • Eating too much at your evening meal
  • Caffeine (in chocolate, drinks like coffee, and in some medicines)
  • Sleep disorders, like sleep apnea or insomnia.

How to improve the quality and amount of sleep you get: According to The American Diabetes Association magazine, Diabetes Forecast, diabetes experts say we can get a better night’s sleep by following these tips:

  • Set a schedule. Going to bed and waking up around the same time every day (yes, even on weekends) can help the body establish a healthy sleep/wake cycle.
  • Avoid nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol. These substances can disrupt sleep and should be avoided, especially in the evening. 
  • Get in the mood. A soothing bedtime routine can ease the transition from wakefulness to sleepiness. Try getting into the habit of taking a bubble bath or listening to peaceful music just before lights out.
  • Exercise earlier in the day. People who are physically active sleep better. However, stimulating activity just before bedtime can actually keep you awake, so do your exercise in the morning or right after work for the best results.
  • Better your bedroom. Turn the room into a sleep-friendly environment by making it dark, quiet, relaxing, clean, and not too hot or too cold. Mattresses and pillows should be comfortable. Also, don’t eat, work, or, of course, smoke in bed; remove TVs, computers, and other gadgets from the bedroom. 
  • Don’t go to bed on a full or empty tank. Eating a big meal or drinking too much just before bed can cost sleep because of heartburn or the need to make a late-night bathroom run. But a rumbling tummy can also rob you of precious sleep, so find a happy medium for dinnertime.
  • Consider medication. If you’ve tried everything and adequate sleep is still elusive, it may be time for extra help from a health care professional. Effective sleep aids are available by prescription and over the counter. But don’t start taking sleeping pills without talking to your doctor first; they may interfere with other medications you are taking, and they don’t all affect sleep the same way.
  • If you think you may have sleep apnea, consult a specialist. Sleep apnea can be a serious, life-threatening condition, and needs to be evaluated by a health care professional.

For more information about Diabetes, visit the National Diabetes Education Program.

For more information about nutrition, weight loss, diabetes or other chronic conditions, as well as other issues of interest to families, contact a Michigan State University Extension educator in your area. Go to http://msue.anr.msu.edu/, or call toll-free 1-888-MSUE-4-MI (1-888-678-3464).

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