Sleep habits and Type 2 diabetes

Regular sleep for diabetes management.

It is important for all people to get enough sleep each night. Getting enough sleep each night is especially important for those with Type 2 diabetes or those at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes to help manage their symptoms.

According to Joslin Diabetes Center uncontrolled diabetes can affect sleep in multiple ways. Sleep can be disturbed by having to wake up multiple times to urinate, having low blood glucose (also known as hypoglycemia, causing one to feel dizzy, shaky, sweaty or hungry) and increasing the risk of developing sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome and insomnia, all of which can disturb restful sleep.

Mayo Clinic recommends that the average adult needs about seven to eight hours of sleep per night. The National Sleep Foundation has found several safety and health concerns associated with shorter sleep duration which includes:

  • Increased risk of drowsy driving
  • A greater risk of obesity due to an increased appetite due to sleep deprivation
  • Increased risk of diabetes and heart problems
  • Increased risk for psychiatric conditions like depression and substance abuse
  • Decreased cognitive function such as ability to pay attention, react to signals or remember new information

While sleep occurs the body is busy repairing tissues and releasing hormones to help one feel rested and rejuvenated for the day to come. According to the National Sleep Foundation, this is what happens during each state and stage of sleep:

NREM (75 percent of night): As we begin to fall asleep, we enter NREM sleep, which is composed of stages one through four.

Stage 1

  • Between being awake and falling asleep
  • Light sleep

Stage 2

  • Onset of sleep
  • Becoming disengaged from surroundings
  • Breathing and heart rate are regular
  • Body temperature drops (so sleeping in a cool room is helpful)

Stages 3-4

  • Deepest and most restorative sleep
  • Blood pressure drops
  • Breathing becomes slower
  • Muscles are relaxed
  • Blood supply to muscles increase
  • Tissue growth and repair occurs
  • Energy is restored
  • Hormones are released, such as: Growth hormone, essential for growth and development, including muscle development

REM (25 percent of night): First occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep and recurs about every 90 minutes, getting longer later in the night

  • Provides energy to brain and body
  • Supports daytime performance
  • Brain is active and dreams occur
  • Eyes dart back and forth
  • Body becomes immobile and relaxed, as muscles are turned off

Sleep also helps to regulate the hormones ghrelin and leptin, which control our feelings of hunger and fullness. Being sleep deprived may make us feel hungrier than we actually are causing overeating and uncontrolled blood glucose.

The benefits of enough sleep for someone with or at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes can help them to regulate their hunger during the day. In turn this can be one management tool to help keep blood glucose within acceptable ranges throughout the day.

Getting enough sleep every night is most likely easier said than done. Michigan State University Extension recommends trying a few of the tips listed below or finding other relaxing activities that work for you. Some things to try are to turn off electronics and bright screens a few hours before bed, avoid alcohol and all caffeine, including chocolate four hours prior to going to bed. To help ease into rest before bed try decaf tea, taking a hot bath or shower or reading a book. If you already have Type 2 diabetes make sure to have an appropriate snack if needed to prevent low blood glucose while sleeping. If nothing seems to be working and sleep deprivation is a part of daily life, contact your healthcare provider to see if there is anything they can do to help.

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