A lot of diabetes management advice focuses on healthy eating and exercising. But sleep is just as important. Lack of sleep may be a direct cause of diabetes, research suggests the body may react to sleep loss in a way similar to insulin resistance, which precedes the diabetic condition1. Insulin is supposed to help the body turn glucose into energy. Insulin resistance means the body is failing to use glucose efficiently, resulting in the high blood sugar levels which can bring about diabetes. Diabetes can be detrimental to the heart, kidneys, eyes, feet & other areas of the body so integral to physical well-being.
In addition to the direct physiological effects of sleep deprivation, the knock-on negative impact it can have on energy levels may lead to a tendency to substitute sleep with food, or feeling too tired for physical activity can hugely contribute to the development of diabetes2. People who sleep less tend to be heavier than good sleepers, often because people look for energy in other places3. Sleep apnea can also be linked to diabetes; this is a sleeping disorder identifiable by loud snoring and breathing while you sleep and can often occur when people are overweight, as fat deposits can congregate around the breathing passage4.
Sleep problems can sometimes only develop after diabetes has developed. When people with diabetes have excessively uncontrollable blood sugar levels, they are often having difficulty sleeping5. When blood sugar is particularly high, kidneys try to resolve the issue by urinating - which means you get up during the night to use the bathroom. Eating well can also make a vast improvement to the quality of sleep. Sometimes people with diabetes can have unhealthy eating habits, which can lead to sleep disruption6. Making sure you eat food which gives you regular energy throughout the day will help keep your blood glucose levels in check.
Not sure if you’re getting enough sleep? Check what time you wake up without an alarm! (It’s probably best to try this at the weekend to avoid those awkward ‘why were you late for work’ conversations!) If it’s an unreasonable time, you may need to make some adjustments.
Remember, if you are having any sleep troubles make sure you see your doctor or healthcare professional.