How Sleep Helps Control Diabetes
If you’re yawning while you read this, we’re not insulted. At least one-third of adults in the United States don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis, and people with diabetes are even more likely to be lacking in the good-quality sleep department.
High and low blood sugar levels can interfere with a good night’s sleep. Plus, people with diabetes are more likely to develop sleep disorders like restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to boost the quality of the sleep you get.
General Health Benefits of a Good Night’s Sleep
If you’re not sleeping well, don’t just shake your head and accept sleepiness as your fate. You really need that sleep! Sleep affects your cognitive performance—that is, if you don’t get enough sleep, your ability to concentrate and make good decisions suffers. Sleep also affects your mood. If you’ve ever felt cranky after pulling an all-nighter, you’re familiar with this feeling.
However, your mood may also suffer if you’re spending a full eight hours in bed, but you’re tossing and turning during most of them. You may find yourself feeling irritable and grouchy, or you might find yourself sliding into depression.
Sleep and Diabetes
A good night’s sleep will also help you manage your diabetes better. Your body tends to process glucose more slowly when you’re not getting an adequate amount of sleep. Research also suggests that successful management of certain sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, can help you improve your glucose control—and it can even improve insulin sensitivity. And getting enough z’s may help you ward off weight gain that can affect your diabetes.
Restless leg syndrome is also common among some people with diabetes. Since it can drastically reduce your quality of sleep, it’s worth talking to your doctor about treatment if it affects you. He or she may recommend one of several different types of medication, such as an anticonvulsant, a benzodiazepine, or ropinirole, a dopamine agonist also used to treat the movement-control problems that are symptomatic of Parkinson’s disease.
How Diabetics Can Get Better Sleep
First, you’ll want to rule out any complicating factors that may need to be addressed. Talk to your doctor to see if you have a separate condition like insomnia, central sleep apnea, or obstructive sleep apnea, which might require some type of treatment. For example, if you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, your doctor might suggest trying to lose some weight, since excess weight is often linked with this condition, or trying continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy.
Even if you don’t suffer from one of those medical conditions, your management of your diabetes can still benefit from improving your sleep. If you’re not getting the sleep you need and feel fatigued as a result, it’s harder to be motivated to take care of yourself. You may not have the energy or the desire to exercise, prepare healthy meals, or monitor your blood sugar levels carefully.
Consider these strategies that may help you improve your overall sleep routine—and gain better control over your diabetes:
- Keep a sleep diary. Write down when you sleep and when you wake for a couple of weeks to see if you can detect any patterns. Show the diary to your doctor.
- Create a sleep-centric environment. The National Sleep Foundation suggests making your bedroom cool, which encourages sleeping, and sticking to a regular routine when it comes to going to bed and getting up in the morning. The blue light from electronic device screens can stimulate your brain and make it hard for you to fall—and stay—asleep, so leave your laptop and smartphone in another room at night.
- Practice a soothing bedtime ritual. Meditation, guided imagery, gentle yoga, listening to some quiet music, or even just spending a few peaceful minutes alone can help you unwind and help your body and brain prepare to sleep.
- Consider therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to help some people with insomnia—although sometimes doctors recommend combining CBT with a medication to help you sleep.
- Ask your doctor about medication. You could be a candidate for medication to help you sleep, although you want to make sure it doesn’t interact with any other medication you may be taking—or leave you feeling groggy or sluggish the next day.
Don’t underestimate the importance of getting a good night’s sleep—or resign yourself to not getting what you need. Consult your doctor if you’re concerned that you may not, in fact, be getting enough quality sleep and determine which strategies may be most appropriate for you.
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