July 8, 2022
Sleep plays an important role in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels
Over the past few decades, the overall average number of hours slept each night has decreased. This decrease in sleep may have contributed to the increase in obesity and diabetes that occurred over the same stretch of time. Obesity and diabetes are affected by blood sugar levels, while one’s blood sugar also impacts obesity and diabetes. As a result, blood sugar could be one of the factors involved in weight loss and sleep. Sleep and physical health are closely connected, so it’s not surprising that sleep affects blood sugar levels.
Although it sounds contradictory, sleep can both raise and lower glucose levels. Our bodies experience a cycle of changes every day—called a circadian rhythm—which naturally lowers and raises blood sugar levels at night and when a person sleeps. These natural blood sugar elevations are not a cause for concern.
When you don’t get enough sleep, the hormone levels in your body can also become irregular. This includes cortisol, a hormone that keeps your body awake. When we lack sleep, the body may produce additional cortisol. While cortisol production increases in the body, blood sugar levels may also increase.
In an attempt to balance the increase in blood sugar levels, your pancreas will produce extra insulin to process the additional sugar in your body. While your body produces more of this stress hormone it is harder for your insulin to do its job effectively, resulting in unhealthy amounts of sugar (glucose) in the bloodstream. Overtime, the pancreas cannot keep up with the work of keeping your blood sugar levels normal.
High levels of these stress hormones also affect our behavior, causing us to crave some of our favorite sugar filled foods. When we lack sleep, we typically consume and crave foods and drinks that are high in sugars and carbohydrates. Overtime, an increased consumption of these foods will cause weight gain and increased blood sugar.
Aside from developing diabetes, lack of sleep can lead to many other health issues. Your lack of sleep may result in you being more likely to cause accidents or develop depression.
Restorative stage of sleep or “deep sleep” plays a big part in maintaining proper insulin levels and blood sugar control. If loss of sleep only occurs for a few days, these potentially damaging effects can be reversed. However, it is recommended that you get seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep every night to reduce your blood sugars and maximize your body’s full functioning.
Low blood sugar, called hypoglycemia, can cause sleep problems. Hypoglycemia can occur in people with or without diabetes. Nocturnal hypoglycemia is a form of hypoglycemia that occurs at night. Low blood sugar during sleep can cause the following symptoms: nightmares, sweating profusely and feeling irritable or confused upon waking.
Research has suggested the following connections between sugar and lack of sleep or sleep problems: Sleep disordered breathing and Obstructive sleep apnea.
If you have sleep apnea going to a sleep clinic and finding a treatment option that works for you can lead to more restful sleep. For many people, that means getting fitted for a CPAP machine that helps keep your airway open, eliminating snoring or disruptive pauses in breathing. If you’re overweight, losing weight may help ease sleep-stealing snoring, too.
Conditions like peripheral neuropathy and restless leg syndrome can often be managed with medication. If you experience pain in your legs or feet, your doctor can help you find a pain reliever to eradicate the discomfort or make it more tolerable.
It’s important to work with your diabetes team to learn how to best manage your blood glucose levels. But in general, good blood glucose management usually includes:
- Eating the right foods. Learn how many carbohydrates are right for you, and stick to healthy sources like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. (Some of which might even improve your sleep.)
- Planning balanced meals. Eating the right amount of carbs coupled with protein and fat can help keep your blood sugar levels from spiking or dipping.
- Taking your medications at the right time. Talk with your diabetes team to determine the best times to take your insulin.
- Being physically active can help keep blood sugar levels in check. Plus, regular workouts can help you sleep better too.
- Monitoring your blood sugar levels. Keeping tabs on your blood sugar means you can take steps to manage highs or lows before they become serious.
- Establish a regular bedtime routine.
- Ensure your bed is large and comfortable enough.
- Ensure your room is cool and well ventilated.
- Ensure your room is dark and free from noise.
If your experiencing sleep problems, talk with your healthcare team, together you can develop a strategy to help you better manage your condition—while achieving the rest that you need.
Alaska Sleep Education Center, How Blood Sugar Levels Impact Sleep retrived July 5, 2022 from https://www.alaskasleep.com/blog/blood-sugar-and-sleep-problems
Diabetes NSW & ACT Sleep and Diabetes, retrived on July 6,2022 from https://diabetesnsw.com.au/blog/sleep-and-diabetes/
NutriSense, What Research Says About Sleep and Blood Sugar Levels retrived July 5, 2022 from https://www.nutrisense.io/blog/research-on-sleep-and-blood-sugar
WebMD, Type 2 Diabetes and Sleep, retrived July 6 2022 from https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/type-2-diabetes-sleep