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How sleeping well can help keep your diabetes under control

Sleeping well is essential to support your diabetes treatment, keep blood sugar under control and help with living with diabetes.

Getting enough quality sleep is vital, even for healthy people. Resting well at night boosts productivity and helps us perform well during the day. But when it comes down to it, sleeping well does much more than help you to feel alert and on top of things. It can actually help you lose weight. And, as anyone with diabetes knows, controlling your weight can help you control the illness.

It is estimated that an adult needs between seven and eight hours of uninterrupted sleep a night. If, for any reason, you don’t get that your biological clock takes a hit and your circadian rhythms are thrown off.

What are circadian rhythms?

A lot of people have heard about them but very few fully understand exactly what they involve. Commonly referred to as biorhythms, circadian rhythms are the physical, mental and emotional changes that follow a cycle of roughly 24 hours. These cycles primarily respond to the amount of light and darkness we are exposed to.

What part do circadian rhythms play in controlling our blood sugar levels?

A recent study discovered a relationship between the changing sleep-wake cycles and the change in circadian rhythms (the regulators of physical activity). Circadian rhythms control different bodily functions, taking their cue from environmental changes. They also regulate body temperature, blood pressure and the release of endocrine hormones (which regulate blood sugar levels).

When our work/rest cycles are changed, our blood sugar levels go up and the metabolic rate (the speed at which our body burns calories in order to obtain energy) is lowered. And as you already know, high blood sugar can lead to prediabetes, which if left untreated can develop into type 2 diabetes.

If you already have type 2 diabetes it’s quite likely you have difficulty getting off to sleep as well as staying asleep once you do. According to a study (exploring the association between sleep quality and quality of life in people with type 2 diabetes) carried out by the School of Nursing at the University of Pittsburgh, sleep disorders are all too common in people with type 2 diabetes. 

300 people with type 2 diabetes participated in the study. The average age was 63 and 57% of the participants were women. Of the 300 people interviewed, 12% were being treated with insulin. Results showed that 55% had sleep disorders that they felt affected their quality of life. Interestingly, using an insulin based treatment did not seem to have an impact on sleep quality. Results did show, however, that sleep disorders were commonly associated with individuals who presented a greater number of complications typically associated with the illness, such as peripheral neuropathy (pain in the legs) or nocturia (excessive urination at night).

What could help me sleep better?

So, as you can see, sleeping well is just as important to controlling the illness as exercising and eating well. So don’t lose another minute’s sleep. If you have difficulty dropping off we recommend you try the following:

- Don’t overeat in the evenings. Try making lunch your main meal of the day. 

- Try to establish a fixed sleeping pattern by going to bed at the same time each night and making sure you get up at the same time (even if it’s the weekend). If you have to take a nap after lunch, keep it short (half an hour tops).

- Do what you can to ensure your bedroom is as dark and quiet as possible (leaving lights on is not a good idea). The more peaceful and welcoming your sleeping environment, the better you’ll sleep. 

- Keep the temperature in your bedroom neutral – not too hot, not too cold.

- Try to avoid physical activity late at night. Exercising just before you go to bed can prove invigorating rather than relaxing. What you really want is to get your body to wind down - signalling it’s time to sleep.

- It’s not a good idea to watch television or work on the computer straight before going to bed. The light from the screen can actually stop you from relaxing and drifting off.

- Try not to smoke or drink alcohol or caffeine based drinks late at night. All three of these habits have a stimulating affect - winding you up rather than calming you down.

- Talk things through with your doctor if you find that you’re persistently having trouble sleeping. Don’t just let it happen and hope it’ll get better on its own. 

So say goodbye to dark circles under your eyes and falling asleep at the desk. Put the spring back in your step. Sleeping soundly is not just one of life’s greatest pleasures - it’s also has proven health benefits. Are you sure you’re getting enough?

Diabetes, Treatment, Diagnosis, Non-pharmacological treatments, Social Life, Scientific research

Author: Purificación Salgado, Journalist

Last Modification: December 1, 2016

© People Who Global, iStock.com

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