Diabetes and Sleep: What is the link between them?

What is the link between Diabetes and Sleep


Diabetes and sleep

Sleep can affect your blood sugar levels and your blood glucose control can also affect your sleep, which results in trouble sleeping.
Difficulty getting a good night’s rest could be a result of a number of reasons, from hypos at night, to high blood sugars, sleep apnea, being overweight or signs of neuropathy.
If you have blood sugar levels that are either too high or too low overnight, you may find yourself tired through the next day.
Lethargy and insomnia can both have their roots in blood sugar control and can be a key in re-establishing a healthy sleep pattern.
Diabetes is a condition in which the body is unable to produce insulin properly.
This causes excess levels of glucose in the blood. The most common types are type 1 and type 2 diabetes. If you have type 1, your pancreas doesn’t produce insulin, so you must take it on a daily basis.
If you have type 2, your body can make some of its own insulin, but it’s often not enough.
This means that your body can’t use the insulin correctly.

Why does diabetes affect your ability to sleep?

In one 2012 study, researchers examined the associations between sleep disturbance and diabetes. Sleep disturbance includes difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, or sleeping too much. The study found a clear relationship between sleep disturbance and diabetes. The researchers say that sleep deprivation is a significant risk factor for diabetes, which can sometimes be controlled.

Having diabetes doesn’t necessarily mean that your sleep will be impacted. It’s more a matter of what symptoms of diabetes you experience and how you manage them. Certain symptoms are more likely to cause issues when you’re trying to rest:

  • High blood sugar levels can cause frequent urination. If your blood sugar is high at night, you could end up getting up frequently to use the bathroom.
  • When your body has extra glucose, it draws water from your tissues. This can make you feel dehydrated, prompting you to get up for regular glasses of water.
  • The symptoms of low blood sugar, such as shakiness, dizziness, and sweating, can affect your sleep.

Getting A Good Night Sleep

The following may help to promote better sleep:
  • Keep your blood glucose under control
  • Ensure your bed is large and comfortable enough – and pillows at a comfortable height
  • Ensure your room is cool (around 18 degrees celcius) and well ventilated
  • Ensure your room is dark and free from noise – if this is not possible, you may benefit from a sleeping blindfold or ear plugs
  • Incorporating a period of exercise into each day
  • Stick to a regular bed time.

Can a lack of sleep be cause of diabetes?

Research has shown that sleep deprivation and insulin resistance may be linked.

People who regularly lack sleep are will feel more tired through the day and more likely to eat comfort foods.

A good night’s sleep is important for our hormones to regulate a large number of the body’s processes, such as appetite, weight control and the immune system.

Trouble Sleeping From High Sugar Level

High blood sugar levels can impact upon your sleep. It could be that the high levels make it less comfortable for you to sleep – it may make you feel too warm or irritable and unsettled.

Another factor is if you need to go the toilet during the night. For people with regularly high blood sugar levels this can have a pronounced impact on your ability to get a good night’s sleep. If this is the case, be sure to mention this to your health team.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Diabetes

Obstructive sleep apnea affects people’s ability to breathe during sleep. It is most common in people who are 35-54 and particularly in people who are overweight, as this can have an impact on their ability to breathe adequately at night.

Day Time Tiredness And After Meal Lethargy

Feeling tired through the day, particularly during the morning and after meals is often a result of high blood sugar levels.

If you notice you are becoming tired during the day, test your blood sugar levels to see whether there is a correlation between the blood sugar numbers you are getting and the feelings of tiredness. Note down the numbers and how you felt.  If you are taking insulin or are at risk of hypoglycemia, tiredness or lethargy could be a result of low blood sugar, so it is recommended to test blood glucose for this reason too.

Low Blood Sugar (HYPOS) During Sleeping

Low blood glucose levels, hypoglycemia, can also have a negative impact upon your sleep. If you are taking insulin or other blood sugar medication, you may be at risk of low blood sugar levels during the night.

Low blood sugar levels overnight can disrupt your sleep pattern and lead to difficulty waking in the morning and tiredness through the day.

Night time hypoglycaemia can be noticeable, for example waking up sweating, or it can happen without you noticing. If nocturnal hypoglycemia is suspected, it is usually quite easy to prevent. Speak to your healthcare team if you are experiencing night time hypos.

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

Restless leg syndrome (also known as Ekbom syndrome) is characterised by unpleasant, uncomfortable feelings in the legs which causes one to wish to move the legs to minimise the sensation.

Such sensations may include a burning feeling or an experience as though insects were crawling on or in the legs.

Symptoms of RLS may vary from irritating to painful. RLS may be a sign that peripheral neuropathy is present. Restless leg syndrome can be treated by treating the underlying cause. If a lack of diabetes control is thought to be the reason, improving blood glucose levels could help to treat the problem of RLS.

Tips for improving your quality of sleep

Follow these tips to get a better night’s rest:

Avoid electronic devices before turning in

Avoid using cell phones and e-readers at night because the glow can wake you up. Switch to old-fashioned books to read before you sleep to quiet your mind and lessen the strain on your eyes.

Ditch alcohol before bedtime

Even if you feel a glass of wine calms your body and makes you sleep, you likely won’t stay asleep for a full eight hours after drinking around bedtime.

Remove distractions

If you receive text messages throughout the night, turn off your phone. Consider buying an alarm clock instead of using your cell phone’s alarm app. This may empower you to turn your phone off because you won’t need it for any reason throughout the night.

Create white noise

Although it may seem like a pleasant way to wake up, hearing the sound of birds chirping in the early morning can disrupt your sleeping patterns. The sounds of garbage collectors, street sweepers, and people leaving for early-morning jobs can also disrupt your sleep. If you’re a light sleeper, use items such as a ceiling, desk, or central air fan to help remove these distracting noises.

Stay regimented in your sleeping patterns

Go to bed at the same time every night, and wake up at the same time each morning, including weekends. Your body will naturally start to get tired and automatically wake itself up.

Stay away from stimulants at night

Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages, exercising, and even doing simple work around the house at night. The only type of evening workout you should consider is a slow-paced yoga session that can prepare your body for sleep. Otherwise, you’ll speed up your blood flow, and it will take a while for your body to calm down.



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